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Update from Government Statistician on information releases – 14 April 2011

Impact of earthquake on Statistics New Zealand

Statistics New Zealand puts out around 270 information releases a year, including things like Gross Domestic Product, Consumers Price Index, Household Labour Force Survey, and the Balance of Payments. The department also helps with other government work such as the crime statistics, and marriages and civil unions figures.

Around 250 Statistics New Zealand staff are based in Christchurch. Before the earthquake they were working in two buildings that are now yellow-stickered. It is likely to be some months before these buildings could be functional.

Instead, we are moving to a floor at the Ministry of Social Development Building in Papanui in May. We are currently working through how many of our staff will fit there.

In the meantime, we are doing our best with remote access, a small office formerly used by census staff in the suburb of Sockburn, and some limited travel to our Wellington and Auckland offices.

Outputs

  • Since the earthquake we have been able to produce nearly all of our planned statistical releases. This is largely thanks to the commitment of our staff. We also want to thank our users for their input since the earthquake and their understanding around changes to our output timing. 
  • It will be some months before fully recovered but we will continue to provide updates on our website release calendar about what we are producing.

Methodological issues

  • The earthquake has caused major disruption to data collection in Canterbury. So in some instances we are thinking outside the square to keep our information releases coming out. But we are committed to maintaining quality and will take extra time if needed to reach the proper standards. 
  • To ensure quality, we have put additional reviews in place – internally as well as with panels of external experts; and the Australian Bureau of Statistics has also offered help to review our methods. 
  • When we do not have data we will use different types of relevant data to balance what is missing, in keeping with best practice. 
  • Different releases have varying issues: we will outline any methodological issues – and the steps taken to mitigate them – when we produce information releases.

Gross Domestic Product 

The March quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) release, scheduled for 23 June, will be delayed by up to two weeks.

  • We will use the extra time to analyse how the earthquake has affected our processes for measuring GDP and to get supplementary data, making sure the quality of the results is up to standard. 
  • The impact of the Christchurch earthquake cannot easily be isolated in the GDP statistics. Quarterly GDP is only meant to be a short-term indicator about the direction of the economy – we always have to wait for the annual National Accounts in November for more detailed information about the structure of the economy.

Balance of Payments 

  • Both the Balance of Payments (BoP) and the International Investment Position for the March quarter are on schedule to be released on 22 June as originally planned. We are optimistic that we will get the responses we need to finalise the surveys, but it will be a challenge as several international investment and trade in service respondents are based in Christchurch.
  • We will also have to fill gaps in data that are missing from enterprises in Christchurch. 
  • As with the September earthquake, we will estimate the level of claims on overseas insurers for the February earthquake. This amount flows into New Zealand’s current account but as we have seen with the September earthquake, any estimate may have to be substantially revised later.

Consumers Price Index

The Consumers Price Index (CPI) will not be substantially affected by the earthquake.

Household Labour Force Survey

  • The Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) is on track for release on 5 May. 
  • The HLFS is a nationwide survey. Because we were not able to interview people in Christchurch, we will not be able to report regionally on any change in people’s circumstances there. 
  • No interviews were conducted in Selwyn, Waimakariri, and Christchurch city local authorities for six weeks after the earthquake, and in wider Canterbury and the South Island for a short time immediately following the quake. In all, about 5 percent of the normal sample has not been interviewed, giving us a lower response rate than usual. 
  • Because Canterbury contributes about 10 percent to the national estimates, the impact on the estimates of employment and unemployment at the national level should be limited; next month’s release will be statistically sound.

*** ENDS

The above information can be attributed to Geoff Bascand, Government Statistician.

For further information contact:
Colin Marshall, Senior Media Advisor, Strategic Communications
04 931 4630 or 021 285 9191
communication@stats.govt.nz
www.stats.govt.nz/media

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