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More migrants left New Zealand than arrived for a third straight month in May, the most prolonged decline in 10 years, as people relocated after an earthquake struck the nation’s second-biggest city.

Permanent migrant departures exceeded arrivals by 360 in May following readings of 130 in April and 520 in March, Statistics New Zealand said in Wellington today. In the year ended May 31, arrivals outpaced departures by 4,625, the lowest number since the 12 months through January 2009.

Slowing migration adds to the evidence for weaker growth and a declining labor supply this year after the magnitude 6.3 quake killed more than 180 people, wrecked houses and closed businesses in Christchurch on Feb. 22. The central bank may hold borrowing costs at record lows for longer after Christchurch was struck last week by aftershocks, pushing interest-rate swaps to the lowest this month.

“Taxpayers fleeing the country will hamper the government’s desire to swiftly restore the budget to surplus, while a softer economy for longer keeps the Reserve Bank on hold for longer,” Annette Beacher, head of Asia-Pacific research at TD Securities in Singapore, said in an e-mailed note.

Christchurch Departures

Permanent departures of Christchurch residents in the three months through May were 1,300 more than the year-earlier period, the statistics agency said. About 400 fewer people arrived in the city, the statistics agency said.

Many of the residents departing are heading to Australia, a country with five times New Zealand’s population of 4.4 million people that is little more than three hours away by aircraft and offers employment and higher wages as its economy benefits from demand for mineral exports.

There were 4,350 more citizens who departed permanently for Australia in the three months through May than a year earlier, today’s report showed. The annual flow to Australia was 38,899 persons, rising 12,128 from the year through May 2010.


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