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Glossary and references


Actively seeking work

To be actively seeking work a person must use job search methods other than reading job advertisements. Examples of actively seeking work are: writing, phoning, contacting using electronic mail or applying in person to an employer; contacting a private employment agency; contacting Work and Income New Zealand about a job; placing an advertisement to find a job; contacting friends or relatives about a job; taking steps to set up your own business or contacting a careers advisor or vocational guidance officer.


Age is the length of time a person has been alive measured in complete, elapsed years. It is measured as the difference between date of birth and data collection date.


All people in the working–age population who during the reference week:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay or profit in the context of an employee/employer relationship or self-employment.
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business or professional practice owned or operated by a relative. Prior to April 1990, defined as 15 hours or more.
  • had a job but were not at work due to:
    • own illness or injury
    • personal or family responsibilities
    • bad weather or mechanical breakdow
    • direct involvement in industrial dispute
    • leave or holiday


The jobless is an alternative measure of unemployment to the official unemployed. The jobless are defined as the officially unemployed plus those people who during their reference week were without employment and either:

  • available, but not actively seeking work
  • actively seeking, but not available for work.

Jobless rate

The number of jobless people expressed as a percentage of the jobless plus the employed.

Labour force

Members of the working–age population who during their survey reference week are classified as employed or unemployed.

Labour force participation rate

The labour force expressed as a percentage of the working–age population.

Persons not in the labour force

Any person in the working–age population who is neither employed nor unemployed, as defined in employed and unemployed, is deemed to be not in the labour force. This category includes, for example:

  • retired people
  • people with personal or family responsibilities such as unpaid housework and childcare
  • people attending educational institutions
  • people permanently unable to work due to physical or mental handicaps
  • people who were temporarily unavailable for work in the survey reference week
  • people who are not actively seeking work


All people in the working–age population who during their reference week were without a paid job, were available for work and:

  • had actively sought work in the past four weeks ending with the reference week
  • had a new job to start within four weeks.

A person whose only job search method in the previous four weeks has been to look at job advertisements in the newspapers is not considered to be actively seeking work.

Unemployment rate

The number of unemployed people expressed as a percentage of the labour force.

Working–age population

The usually resident population of New Zealand aged 15 years and over.

Residual categories

Labour force status unidentifiable

The standard residual categories are not applicable because labour force status is a derived variable. The variables used to derive labour force status do however contain the standard residual categories within their respective classifications. The residual category 'labour force status unidentifiable' is used to categorise statistical units for which there is insufficient or contradictory information which does not allow the derivation of a labour force status category.

Don’t know

Use of this category is discretionary. The use of a category capturing don't know responses is most applicable to household surveys where don't know may be a legitimate response to certain questions.

Refused to answer

This category is only used when it is known that the respondent has purposefully chosen not to respond to the question. Use of this residual category in processing is optional. Its use is most applicable in face–to–face or telephone interviews, but may be used in self–completed questionnaires if the respondent has clearly indicated they refuse or object to answering the question.

Response unidentifiable

This category is used when there is a response given, but:

  1. the response is illegible, or
  2. it is unclear what the meaning or intent of the response is - this most commonly occurs when the response being classified contains insufficient detail, is ambiguous or is vague, or
  3. the response is contradictory eg, both the yes and no tick boxes have been ticked, or
  4. the response is clear and seemingly within the scope of the classification but can not be coded because no suitable option (particularly other residual category options such as 'not elsewhere classified' or 'not further defined') exists in the classification or codefile.
Response outside scope

This category is used for responses that are positively identified (ie the meaning and the intent are clear) but which clearly fall outside the scope of the classification/topic as defined in the standard.

Not stated

This category is only used where a respondent has not given any response to the question asked, ie it is solely for non–response.


The International Labour Organisation (ILO) definitions of employment, unemployment and not in the labour force as set down at the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians 1982 can be found at

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