Monthly migration continues to rise, placing more pressure on New Zealand's housing and job markets.
Annual net migration is running at a lower level than seen in the middle of last year, but it remains strong.
Statistics New Zealand figures showed net migration jumped to 6,200 in January, up from 5,780 in December. The rise was ahead of most forecasts and was similar to the strong pace reported in mid-2016, Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said.
Underlying the strong January result was a sharp lift in non-New Zealand arrivals from countries other than Australia. The net outflow of New Zealanders remained low and stable.
In annual terms, there was a net inflow of 70,100 people into the country over the past year. Importantly, easing-off in annual migration seen in recent months had now been arrested, he said.
“The key question is whether we will see net migration resuming its downtrend over the coming months.”
Movements of New Zealanders in and out of the country had remained stable, and Westpac was continuing to notice a gradual increase in departures of non-New Zealanders. The big uncertainty related to new arrivals. January's increase in arrivals was large. It would not be surprising to see some pull back next month.
“In addition, we are seeing firmer conditions in other countries, which will make New Zealand look relatively less attractive.”
While off its highs, net migration was still showing a great deal of resilience. Consequently, even though a continued easing off over the next few years was expected, it might be quite gradual, Ranchhod added.
*Dene Mackenzie is business editor of the Otago Daily Times.