Migration trend continues to ease

Tuesday 24 April 2018

One housing demand pressure continues to ease – slightly – with new data showing that annual net migration is now at its lowest level in two years.

By Miriam Bell

Annual net migration came in at 68,000 in the year ending March 2018, according to the latest Statistics New Zealand data.

That’s as compared to the 68,900 new migrants recorded in the year ending February 2018 and about 4,400 down from a record level of 72,400 in the year ending July 2017.

Stats NZ population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers says annual net migration is falling slowly but it still remains high by historical standards.

“More non-New Zealand citizens are leaving but there are just as many migrants arriving as a year ago.”

Net migration for the March 2018 year was made up of 130,800 migrant arrivals and 62,900 migrant departures.

There were 29,700 departures of non-New Zealand citizen migrants in the March 2018 year, which was up 2% from the February 2018 year and up 14% from the July 2017 year.

Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod says that monthly net migration picked up in March, as last month’s unexpected softness in arrivals reversed.

There was a monthly net inflow of 5,480 people in March, which was up from 4,970 arrivals in February.

But smoothing through month-to-month volatility, net migration has been easing back since mid-2017, Ranchhod says.

“In annual terms, net migration has now slowed to just under 68,000. While that is still strong, it is the lowest level in two years.”

That’s because new arrivals to the country have flattened off, departures to countries other than Australia are trending higher and there’s been a reduction in the number of New Zealanders returning home.

Ranchhod says that they 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. We expect that this will continue for some time yet.”

ASB senior economist Mark Smith agrees, saying they expect the solid domestic backdrop will maintain the strong allure of New Zealand.

“But departures will continue to trend up as the global economy strengthens and the tight Australian labour market allures more kiwis across the ditch.”

“We expect net inflows to remain historically high over the next few years, with annual net inflows expected to remain above 50,000 persons by the end of 2019.”

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