Drop off in migration flows

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Migration fuelled population growth has been one of the drivers of the property market boom but migration took a sharp fall last month.

By Miriam Bell

The latest Statistics NZ data shows there was a net gain of 68,900 migrants in the year ended February 2018.

This was a drop on the annual net gain of 70,100 migrants recorded in January and well down on the recorded high of 72,400 seen in the year to July 2017.

Statistics NZ population insights senior manager Peter Dolan says it is the first time since May 2016 that annual net migration has been below 69,000.

“Although annual net migration is slowing, it still remains high by historical standards.”

Dolan adds that the lower annual net migration was mainly caused by an increase in non-New Zealand citizen migrant departures.

In addition to the drop in annual net migration, monthly net migration fell sharply to 4,970 in February.

This is well down on January’s high level of 6,270 migrant arrivals and brings a series of monthly net increases to a halt.

Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod says they had expected a sizeable pullback after last month’s oversized gain, but the extent of the decline was even larger than expected.

Net migration has eased over the past year, with monthly inflows down and the annual inflow of people into the country slowing considerably, he says.

“Looking forward, we expect that migration will continue to ease back over the next few years.

“Much of the increase in migration in recent years was due to people arriving on temporary work and student visas.

“We are now seeing many of those earlier arrivals departing and we expect that this will continue for some time yet.”

ASB economist Mark Smith says they have been expecting migration flows to moderate as the synchronised global upswing, tight Australian labour market and government moves to tighten up on migration take effect.

“This looks to be occurring for migrant arrivals but for now would-be departures from NZ are staying put.”

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