A 20 year high for business confidence

March 1st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The latest ANZ business outlook survey has at a 20 year high. It was last this high in 1994. That is quite extraordinary when you consider how fragile the world economy still is, and the problems Australia is having.

Business confidence is at +71%. This doesn’t guarantee that the economy will grow strongly, but it does suggest that businesses will invest more money and start hiring more staff. Indeed a net 32% of business plan to hire more staff – the highest level since December 1992. In the manufacturing sector it is even higher at a net 37%.

ANZ is now talking economic growth between 4% and 6% in the next year. I think that is rather optimistic, but anything over 3% is great.

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53 Responses to “A 20 year high for business confidence”

  1. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    So, now that we’re definitely recovering from the mess the GFC made, business confidence is as high as it was when we started recovering from the mess Douglas and Richardson made. Colour me unsurprised.

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  2. Bovver (171 comments) says:

    The ‘mess’ that Douglas and Richardson ‘made’ are part of the reason NZ is in such a relatively good position today. The Aussie’s have some hard times ahead which are not helped by corrupt unions.

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  3. tvb (4,361 comments) says:

    This is a major coup for the Key Government. Their moderate course to public finances has meant that initial public debt is much higher than Richardson/ Douglas but it has probably meant that recovery will be faster and the return to surplus will be stronger. We were also lucky that our banking system was reasonably strong with the Australian parents being able to keep our banking system afloat without major Government need of a bail out compared with Ireland. The Labour Party will bang on about the poor as if the only function of Government is to look after the poor but only a small minority of people care about the poor beyond providing a welfare safety net.

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  4. Keeping Stock (10,298 comments) says:

    What is even more impressive is the 30% increase in hiring intentions; from a net 24.7% in December to a net 32.2% at the end of January. Employment growth has thus far been the missing piece of the economic puzzle, but if one in three employers is planning on hiring, that bodes well for unemployment to fall significantly in the run-up to the election and beyond. The key now will be for the rise in business confidence and the fall in unemployment to be both significant and sustained.

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  5. Yogibear (361 comments) says:

    Keeping Stock – I disagree – but in a minor and very civilised way.

    The missing piece in our economic puzzle for the last 20 years has been employers’ willingess to invest in plant and equipment at anywhere near developed country levels.

    The net result is our labour productivity is shit because our answer to growing businesses has been to work harder and longer and throw more people at things, because people are cheap.

    Whats been most pleasing in the last 12 months is that as we come out of the GFC, firm capital investment is at highs certainly not seen in my lifetime. The unions hate it as manufacturers and primary industries shift away from labor intensive business models, but it puts us on a much stronger economic footing.

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  6. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    In what sense is it “impressive” that employment is also starting to recover? Jobs get shed in a recession, and added in a recovery – it’s no more “impressive” than the fact that when you have a cold you eventually get better.

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  7. David Farrar (1,889 comments) says:

    What Psycho meant to say is that business confidence is higher today than at any point under nine years of the last government.

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  8. Yogibear (361 comments) says:

    Psycho – its a poor analogy because you deal in a binary cold/no cold example. Relativities are what makes us competitive (as the union bloated Australian motor industry and Qantas are now finding out)

    To take your analogy further, if the world catches Bird Flu, but you look after yourself and get a mild bout of the snuffles, you can do more while everyone is sick as a dog, and come out faster and stronger as everyone recovers.

    Thats the challange for NZ in the next few years. We had a pretty shallow dip by world standards – how we leverage that strong position is critical now.

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  9. jcuk (668 comments) says:

    In the headlines for RNZ’s Saturday Morning programme apparently there is a section asking why we are so confident, yet to play as I write I believe.
    Confidence builds confidence, lack of causes even less, a pity such propaganda plays … but I guess few people listen to RNZ so it doesn’t really matter.

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  10. Manolo (13,574 comments) says:

    Colour me unsurprised.

    I can only colour you deep red, comrade Psycho.
    You will always be the unrepentant communist, a proponent of misery among people.

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  11. Nostalgia-NZ (5,119 comments) says:

    Yogibear is right about investment in plant and so on but I think that is happening now where more labour is not necessarily seen as the answer. It will always be the case that the majority of small business starts out on a wing and a prayer relying on hard work and determination to help bridge a shortage of finance – hence why a lot fail, restructure in some way and start again. Business is the great leveller in our society, anybody can give it a go – it may not always be sophisticated or well financed and hark back to tree felling and gold mining – this economy will present more opportunities for growth in small business and that is a big positive. The old adage is when the builders are busy the economy is healthy, not forgetting the farmers of course being the very backbone.

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  12. greenjacket (459 comments) says:

    “In the manufacturing sector it is even higher at a net 37%.”
    But there was a Parliamentary inquiry which said that manufacturing is in crisis….

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  13. RF (1,380 comments) says:

    Since Cunliffe dropped the McCarten bomb has anyone heard any comments from our resident communist party. I am presuming that the gweens are still in shock. Dear wee sausages.

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  14. Yogibear (361 comments) says:

    RF – Shock and Awe. Cunliffe is going Rumsfeld on the Greens as its funny as hell.

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  15. RF (1,380 comments) says:

    Upon reflection my last comment should have been in GD. Sorry DF.

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  16. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    This is great stuff! If the Nats get back in, we could be looking at a boom similar to the “wool boom” of the 1950s.

    By the time the 2017 election comes along, the charter schools will have been going for four years (including this year) so they should give even *more* reason for re-election of the Nats in 2017.

    Meanwhile, the socialist “poster child” economies – France and Venezuela – continue on their plunge towards the abyss.

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  17. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,887 comments) says:

    Don’t worry. Cunliffe will manage to find a crisis in thee somewhere. Somewhere.

    Oh and Milt! Unlike many other countries, NZ did not actually go into recession during the GFC. Perhaps leftie-world a change from Clark to Key = recession.

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  18. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    What Psycho meant to say is that business confidence is higher today than at any point under nine years of the last government.

    Headline: Employers in “Don’t like Labour governments” shock!

    Unlike many other countries, NZ did not actually go into recession during the GFC.

    Which is a glorious testament to the wisdom of letting the Aussies run our banks, and Cullen spending his surpluses on debt reduction rather than tax cuts. I don’t hold it against DPF for pretending Key’s government deserves the credit – that’s his job, after all. But people who aren’t partisans for the current government would be suckers to believe him.

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  19. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Psycho: You have taken an apt nom de plume; what part of the public service are you employed, or are you just an unemployed beneficiary? It is hard to take an attitude such as yours, then be expected to give your ilk well paid positions in a company that has good employees who are there to succeed and help the company succeed. Your type put obstacles in the way of anything that may be progressive, and usually come from a pommie cloth cap background of envy. Go crawl under your socialist rock.

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  20. Manolo (13,574 comments) says:

    @igm: The aptly named Psycho is a recalcitrant socialist and staunch admirer of Helen Clark, who longs for a return to Labour’s years of glory (and NZ’s misery).

    In despair after his failed blog, he visits KB to vent his anger, to rant against success, money, and other “evils”. You’d better leave him to stew in his own misery.

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  21. adze (2,105 comments) says:

    “Cullen spending his surpluses on debt reduction and paid more than double the market worth of an unprofitable train set rather than tax cuts.”

    FTFY

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  22. Zapper (1,019 comments) says:

    Poor old PM. Even in good times he has to desperately try to remain miserable and pessimistic when his communist masters aren’t in power.

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  23. kiwi in america (2,428 comments) says:

    Was interesting listening to Cunliffe spinning to Brent Edwards (who has yet to ask any politician on the left a difficult question) on the growing economy on Red Radio’s “Focus on Politics”. John Key is only popular because of dairy prices and the insurance payout in Christchurch. He embarked on a lengthy sour grapes gripe digging deep into the left’s book of faults of the NZ economy. Key was vintage Key – ebullient, positive, had nothing but nice things to say about Cunliffe leaving the voters to decide on his government’s track record and modest about the reasons for his popularity. The contrast in styles couldn’t be more stark. With McCarten by his side Cunliffe will merely add more populist rhetoric, cough up more fur balls as the pace of the economic expansion quickens even more and add another crop of lefty policy announcements that will suffer the fate of Kiwi Power, KiwiAssure, Kiwi Build and the baby bonus.

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  24. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    Poor old PM. Even in good times he has to desperately try to remain miserable and pessimistic when his communist masters aren’t in power.

    It’s not “miserable and pessimistic” to recognise that the economy is little affected by which party is in government, it’s “rational and realistic.” I expect the economy will do well in the next few years regardless of who’s in power.

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  25. Viking2 (11,412 comments) says:

    PM, its what happens after the left return that worries us all.

    Mind you, the lot we have now have really occupied the left and the other lot have moved further towards Maxism.They should change their party name. Both of them

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  26. hmmokrightitis (1,586 comments) says:

    I still find it odd that Silent T is banging the same old drum about the fact that many are being left behind, the poor are getting poorer etc etc.

    The levels of economic activity we are seeing are almost unprecedented in my span – Im 50 this year. Indicators are all, without exception, pointing to a well controlled boom, and the economy has good capacity within it, particularly when it comes to labour capability. The next few years should be a great time to make hay. Not quite sure they will be looked back on as a golden time, but time will tell.

    Silent T is, I think, preaching to a very small group, and getting smaller. We had planned to take on 4 new staff during the year. We are at 10, in March. Astonishing. But please Silent T, keep up the good work. :)

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  27. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    …its what happens after the left return that worries us all.

    Why? NZ has done as well under Labour governments as National ones. At the individual-voter level there may be a lot of reasons to prefer one over the other, but at the macro-economic level it really doesn’t matter.

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  28. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    I’m waiting for Labour to announce the solution to the problem of ‘high’ food prices is Kiwi Mart. They could recruit Apu to run them!

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  29. Simon (698 comments) says:

    Debt fueled crack up boom. 2014 might be a wonderful year but the hang over in the ffollowing years will be terrible.

    House hold debt is around 100% of GDP, business debt is another 50% gdp & State debt 30%. The economy will not be able to handle interest rate increases when the State finally resets the rates higher to combat inflation or when the banks finally run out of money to lend.

    To avoid a crash landing the State set interest rates need to rise now. National govt can slash govt spending, regulation and lower tax rates right now.

    When it crashes blame those turds at the RBNZ & national party for not reducing the size of govt.

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  30. kiwi in america (2,428 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt
    Yea keep spinning – when Labour ran NZ the country entered a recession BEFORE the GFC, left National a decade of deficits and a bloated bureaucracy. Clark came to power with the economy in good shape – Key found a bare cupboard and he and English have guided NZ to this strong growth despite the worse recession in 80 years and an earthquake that consumed 10% of the country’s GDP. Cullen never got close to an invite to the G 20.

    The contrast between US and NZ business confidence on my December 2013 trip back was stark. In the US so many small businesses are struggling, not hiring and eking by. Uncertainty abounds – as does pessimism something you don’t often see amongst the perennially optimistic Americans. Cunliffe is swimming against a swift tide and harping on at the edges of the recovery about things that he and Clark’s other ministers could never come close to mastering in 9 years will do nothing to lift his poll ratings.

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  31. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    Simon, while household debt probably is too high that can’t be blamed on govt. spending. More concerted measures to free up land and speed up the building process, and to reduce the tax distortions favouring housing/land as an investment would be better than your solutions. People borrow too much because they see house values largely going only one way.

    Higher interest rates push up the exchange rate so are a double edged sword.

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  32. mandk (968 comments) says:

    Come on guys, stop being mean to psycho milt!

    He’s just upset because employment is increasing, unemployment is decreasing, exports are booming, skilled immigrants are flocking to NZ, inflation is under control, and public services are improving.

    It’s enough to make any lefty weep :-)

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  33. mavxp (479 comments) says:

    How much of this is the short-term windfall presented by the insurance money coming into the country to pay for the Christchurch rebuild, and everyone else clipping the ticket however they can, whether they are directly involved in the rebuild or paper shuffling from offices in Auckland or Wellington?

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  34. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    Kiwi in America: oh, please – you peddle that “decade of deficits” bullshit and accuse me of spin?

    As to your main point, Clark and Key both came to power with the economy in good shape. The only government that left the economy in bad shape was Muldoon’s, and maybe 4th Labour. In Clark’s case there were downsides like the public service had been gutted to the point where it was barely functional and there was substantial public debt, and in Key’s case there were downsides like the housing bubble and public spending set at a level suitable for times of surplus but not for a global financial crisis. They both coped, because they were both at the top of a well-organised society.

    He’s just upset because employment is increasing, unemployment is decreasing, exports are booming, skilled immigrants are flocking to NZ, inflation is under control, and public services are improving.

    See, it’s this level of reading comprehension that makes Kiwiblog comment threads the very special thing that they are.

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  35. Zapper (1,019 comments) says:

    There’s something very special around here, Psycho, that’s for sure

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  36. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    @PM – “Clark and Key both came to power with the economy in good shape.”

    The *world* economy sure as hell wasn’t (in 2008).

    *Coincidence* that a socialist-led country like France has gone down the tubes since then while a centre-right government here has made the economy roar like a V8 (and *also* had the Canterbury quakes to deal with)? I think not.

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  37. mandk (968 comments) says:

    Psycho Milt:

    “Key …. came to power with the economy in good shape.
    ….
    … in Key’s case there were downsides like the housing bubble and public spending set at a level suitable for times of surplus but not for a global financial crisis”

    How can you say these two things in the same para?

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  38. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    For the same reason I can say “Clark… came to power with the economy in good shape” and “in Clark’s case there were downsides like the public service had been gutted to the point where it was barely functional and there was substantial public debt” – being in good shape isn’t the same thing as being perfect.

    The *world* economy sure as hell wasn’t (in 2008).

    Sure, which is why Key hasn’t spent the years since then presiding over the kind of surpluses Cullen did.

    *Coincidence* that a socialist-led country like France has gone down the tubes since then while a centre-right government here has made the economy roar like a V8…

    Er, what? France had a centre-right government following the GFC and was in no better shape under them. NZ hasn’t had a centre-right government since the GFC, it’s had one that’s largely maintained Labour’s programme – a centre-right government would have scrapped WFF, interest-free student loans and the various things with names starting with “Kiwi,” and implemented an austerity programme. Finally, “roaring like a V8?” It’s returned to growth following years of stagnation, thanks to high commodity prices and the Christchurch rebuild. How would the government, whether National or Labour, get to take credit for those things?

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  39. Kimble (4,432 comments) says:

    Milt can’t see what National has done since taking over and assumes the situation would be exactly the same if Labour was in power.

    The rest of us grown ups know that if a Clarke led Labour government had a few more years in control of NZ there is no chance we would have stood still.

    An even more bloated public service, accelerating debt, effective nationalisations, unions would have had even more preferential treatment, tax would be much MUCH higher, an expanded welfare net to the extent that we would ALL be paying each other a benefit.

    Even if National doesnt do ANYTHING when they are in power, that is still preferable to Labour’s needless meddling, controlling, and generally fucking everything up.

    But Milt thinks politicians are only worthwhile so long as they are ‘doing something’. Counter productive? Ineffective? Inefficient? Doesnt matter. DO SOMETHING!!

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  40. Kimble (4,432 comments) says:

    And I am SICK TO FUCKING DEATH of people blaming National for not rolling back every stupid Labour scheme.

    Like it or not, Labour’s bad policies affect the choices people made. And those people would be WORSE off than they were before Labours stupid policies, if those policies were simply wound back.

    THAT is the reason never to vote for Labour. They entrench their bad ideas. Bad legislation takes a day to pass and a decade to fix.

    National rolling back the policies is not the same as Labour never bringing them in in the first place. Fucking deal with that reality!

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  41. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    So, if Labour had remained in power since 2008 things would be so much worse than they are now? That’s about as useful as saying that if National had remained in power after 1999 things would have been much worse than they were in the early-mid-2000s – ie, no use whatsoever. Stuff that didn’t actually happen is entirely a matter of opinion.

    But Milt thinks politicians are only worthwhile so long as they are ‘doing something’.

    This is pretty depressing to read, as my comments on this thread are entirely based on the premise that it doesn’t actually make that much difference to the economy what politicians do (well, the ones who get to form governments, anyway).

    And I am SICK TO FUCKING DEATH of people blaming National for not rolling back every stupid Labour scheme.

    Er, I’m not “blaming” them for not rolling back Labour’s programme, just pointing out that they didn’t. Personally, I’m pleased that they stuck with Labour’s programme instead of charging off on some batshit-crazy right-wing agenda.

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  42. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    Anyone with half a brain who has spent any time in Wellington around government and/or government agencies knows politicians with their schemes and egos are generally the problem rather than the solution!

    Did all those extra public servants employed by the Clark government improve government?? Great for me because it pushed up wages in Wellington. Not so sure it was great for the rest of the country!

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  43. Kimble (4,432 comments) says:

    So, if Labour had remained in power since 2008 things would be so much worse than they are now?

    So Milt, lets hear what Labour would have changed about their behaviour that would have left us better off when the coffers started to empty.

    Cullen needlessly spent a surplus. How much debt do you think we’d be under now if their reckless spending wasnt halted and if they didnt have the opportunity to show the Keynesian credentials by counter-cyclical extravagance. (Which predictably becomes cyclical extravagance during good economic times.)

    We were damned lucky the GFC didnt arrive a few years earlier.

    Even if National did absolutely nothing, the fact that Labour werent around to do any more damage is good enough.

    National not rolling back all of their stupid policies is not an endorsement of those policies. It is dealing with the new reality brought about by those stupid policies.

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  44. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    So Milt, lets hear what Labour would have changed about their behaviour that would have left us better off when the coffers started to empty.

    My God, you’re right – a global financial crisis wouldn’t have prompted them to change any of their policies, and we would have been doomed! Doomed, I tell you! Thank God the government post-2008 consisted of people capable of recognising the GFC as something needing a response! I’m sorry, but your comment really doesn’t deserve a better answer.

    Cullen needlessly spent a surplus.

    On paying down public debt, despite for every fucking budget having to sit through DPF and a bunch of Nat chinless-wonder MPs braying how he was robbing them of their tax cuts. The man has the patience of a saint if the only insult he came up with in response was “rich pricks.”

    Even if National did absolutely nothing, the fact that Labour werent around to do any more damage is good enough.

    One could say reverse the party names and say the same about the early-mid-2000s. Talking shit about stuff that didn’t happen is easy.

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  45. OneTrack (3,020 comments) says:

    psycho – “I expect the economy will do well in the next few years regardless of who’s in power.”

    Now you are taking the piss. We arent talking National vs Labour anymore. Now we are talking National vs Cunliffe (of the New Lynn speech and indebted to the unions) and McCarten, backed up by the Communists in the Green Party, with supporting roles of the racists and separatists in Mana.

    Especially if you have a private sector job, you wont be happy if the hard-left taniwha gets in.

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  46. DJP6-25 (1,376 comments) says:

    There’s certainly a lot of good news at the moment. There’s no room for complacency though. That would let Liebour, Mana, Greens, NZ Worst in.

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  47. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    Especially if you have a private sector job, you wont be happy if the hard-left taniwha gets in.

    I don’t, but why would people who do be unhappy if the party that pushed unemployment the lowest it’s been in a long time replaces the party that’s happy to see it go up?

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  48. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    A party that had the biggest economic boom in a long time so unemployment went down – the Nats have managed to bring it down after it rose with the recession. Youth unemployment went very high after Labour got rid of youth rates (well actually a Greens bill that they supported).

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  49. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    So, if I have this straight, when unemployment goes down under Labour or up under National, it’s down to external economic factors and nothing to do with the government – but if unemployment goes down under National, it’s due to the awesome brilliance of National economic policy?

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  50. Anthony (794 comments) says:

    No point arguing with someone who keeps making stuff up!

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  51. Manolo (13,574 comments) says:

    Keep quiet comrade Psycho. Just go back to worship Mao, Stalin, and Fidel.

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  52. Jim (397 comments) says:

    So, if I have this straight, when unemployment goes down under Labour or up under National, it’s down to external economic factors and nothing to do with the government

    When it goes down under Labour it’s because they are hiring unemployed into non-productive roles, or pouring money into other sundry make-work schemes.
    The inverse is the correction.

    but if unemployment goes down under National, it’s due to the awesome brilliance of National economic policy

    It’s certainly not because they are absorbing unemployed back into the public sector. Gotta be something else…

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  53. Psycho Milt (2,411 comments) says:

    When it goes down under Labour it’s because they are hiring unemployed into non-productive roles, or pouring money into other sundry make-work schemes.
    The inverse is the correction.

    I refer you to Anthony’s point above:

    No point arguing with someone who keeps making stuff up!

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