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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.

New Zealand's dollar was little changed after the report. It bought 81.08 U.S. cents at 12:25 p.m. in Wellington from 81.01 cents immediately before the release. The two-year swap rate, a fixed payment made to receive floating rates, rose one basis point to 3.32 percent, after touching 3.275 percent on June 17, the lowest since May 24.

Gross domestic product will rise 2.1 percent in the year ending March 31, 2012, according to the average forecast of 11 economists surveyed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research Inc.

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.

More New Zealanders also departed on overseas trips for holidays or business, today's report showed. Short-term departures rose 9.9 percent in May from a year earlier, and increased 6.6 percent in the year ended May 31.

Short-term visitor arrivals fell 0.4 percent from May last year, and annual arrivals rose 1 percent, adding to signs that growth is sluggish in the tourism industry, which makes up about 9 percent of the economy.

More migrants left New Zealand than arrived for 16 straight months through March 2001, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.