WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s immigration numbers have hit an all-time high, enabling employers to fill jobs but also putting pressure on the housing market, according to economists.
The net number of immigrants was 110,000 in the year ending August, beating the previous high of 103,000 set a month earlier, according to figures released Wednesday by Statistics New Zealand. The numbers represent a big turnaround after more people left New Zealand than arrived during much of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are talking very, very big numbers for a small economy like ours,” said Jarrod Kerr, chief economist at Kiwibank.
Kerr said the surge likely reflected pent-up demand that had built during the pandemic. He said it had come as a relief to employers, who last year were having great difficulty finding skilled workers to fill vacant roles.
New Zealand’s unemployment rate remains at a relatively low 3.6%.
But Kerr also cautioned the migrants would need a lot of resources, including tens of thousands of homes — something that remained in short supply.
The figures show the greatest number of immigrants came from India, followed by Philippines and China. The total number of immigrants reached a record 225,000 during the year while the number of New Zealanders leaving also neared record levels, at 115,000.
The figures included a net loss of nearly 43,000 New Zealand citizens, many of whom were lured to Australia with offers of better pay. Under a reciprocal arrangement, New Zealanders and Australians can live and work in either country.
“Unfortunately, we lose trained, smart individuals,” Kerr said. “That is something that worries us.”
The figures were released three days before New Zealand holds a general election, although immigration hasn’t been a major campaign issue. Both main parties have focused on the soaring cost-of-living, tax cuts and crime.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration