New Zealand's jobless rate rose in the March quarter on the heels of a decade-high increase in the labor force, the government statistics agency said Wednesday.
The unemployment rate edged up to 5.7 percent in the March quarter, from 5.4 percent the previous quarter, while the labor force grew by 1.5 percent, the largest increase since the December 2004 quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand.
"The total labor force increased by 38,000 people in the March 2016 quarter," labor market and households statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said in a statement.
"This resulted in more New Zealanders in unemployment and employment than three months ago."
The employment rate rose to 65.1 percent in the March quarter from 64.9 percent the previous quarter.
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said the 28,000 jobs added to the New Zealand economy made the March quarter the second strong quarter of job growth in a row.
"Overall the economy has created 51,000 new jobs over the last six months, which underlines a strong economic bounce-back since the slower growth period in the first half of the 2015 calendar year," Joyce said in a statement.
New Zealand's employment rate continued to be the third highest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) group of developed nations with 65.1 percent of all adults in employment.
"That compares with 61 percent in Australia, 60 percent in both the UK and U.S., and 52 percent across the European Union," said Joyce.
However, opposition lawmakers and trade unions said the figures showed jobs creation was failing to keep up with population growth.
The main opposition Labour Party called on the government to provide concrete plans for job growth in it annual Budget this month.
"The government keeps saying that good times are just around the corner but actually, for the 144,000 New Zealanders who are looking for a decent job now, those good times never seem to arrive," Metiria Turei, co-leader of the opposition Green Party, said in a statement.