Electronic card retail purchases declined in the March quarter and there was an increase in the number of people in the region registered for the unemployment benefit compared with March last year.
The early Easter this year and an early start to the Massey University mid-semester break is also likely to have contributed to the decline in retail sales in the region in the March quarter.
"We saw similar results on retail sales in 2009 when the Massey semester break also started in March." Palmerston North City Mayor Jono Naylor said. "The decline in retail sales during that time emphasises the importance of tertiary students to the city's economy."
Manawatū region domestic card retail purchases through the Paymark network declined by 1.4% in the March quarter. This reflects the impact of the drought in the quarter and high agricultural production levels in the same quarter last year. However, New Zealand retail sales increased by 1.6% in the March 2013 quarter.
This contrasted with the strong economic growth recorded in the region last year when retail purchases in the region rose by 2.7% in the March 2012 quarter, while national retail purchases declined by 0.2%.
There is a similar pattern with the number of people in the region registered for the unemployment benefit. There was a 20% decline in the year to March 2012 in the number of people in the region who were registered for the unemployment benefit but this has now been partly reversed by an 11% increase in the year to March 2013.
The number of people registered for the unemployment benefit rose by 20% in Manawatū District while there was a 9% increase in Palmerston North between March 2012 and March 2013.