New Zealand's unemployment rate slipped from 6.2 percent to 6 percent in the December 2013 quarter, the government statistics agency announced Wednesday. Over last year, the number of people employed rose by 66,000, or 3 percent, while demand for workers from established businesses rose 1.9 percent, according to Statistics New Zealand. "We're seeing strength across the labor market, particularly in the industries that provide services," industry and labor statistics manager Diane Ramsay said in a statement. "The unemployment rate has been falling and employment rising for the last 18 months, with both now at levels last seen in early 2009." Annual wage inflation remained steady at 1.6 percent in the December quarter, with average ordinary time hourly earnings up by 2.9 percent over the year. Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said the rise in the number of people employed was the highest annual rise since 2006. New Zealand's unemployment rate remained better than most in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group of developed countries, which had an average rate of 7.8 percent, and was just behind Australia with 5.8 percent, he said in a statement. Wages continued to rise faster than inflation, with average weekly earnings up 2.8 percent in the last year, compared with inflation of 1.6 percent. However, the main opposition Labor Party said the job growth was driven by the rebuilding of the earthquake-battered Canterbury region and high dairy prices, which were not sustainable in the long term. "Kiwis aren't getting ahead. Real wages are stagnant and, despite being the fifth fastest growing economy in the OECD, New Zealand is 12th in the OECD for unemployment," Labor employment spokesperson Grant Robertson said in a statement. The opposition Green Party said salaries and wages had increased by 7.3 percent since March 2009 while the Consumer Price Index increased by 9.2 percent, meaning wages and salaries were " going backwards" in real terms. "With interest rates set to start rising next month, all families with a mortgage are about to be squeezed even further," Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said in a statement.