Immigration in New Zealand decelerated to an 11-month low in April as a record number of citizens left the country, indicating a potential easing of the population pressures that have been a concern for policymakers.

In the 12 months through March, annual net immigration declined to 98,464, a fall from a downwardly revised figure of 106,439, according to Statistics New Zealand's announcement on Wednesday in Wellington. This contrasts with the peak of 137,736 recorded in October last year.

The surge in population prompted the Reserve Bank to caution that increased demand for housing and rental accommodation could contribute to inflation. Indeed, the government has described the situation as "unsustainable" due to the strain it places on infrastructure, education, and health services.

With a sixth consecutive decline in net immigration, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) may find confidence in not needing to raise interest rates further. However, the economy still needs to absorb the influx of new arrivals.

Immigrants have expanded the labour force, easing workers’ search for employers and alleviating pressure on wage inflation, Bloomberg reports.

Although the fall in immigration is being fuelled by a reduction in foreign arrivals, there has also been a rise in departures, especially New Zealand citizens, as the sluggish local economy has led to a drop in hiring and wage growth.

In the year to April, a record 130,649 people departed the country, according to this latest report. This includes 81,200 citizens, with a forecast 10,558 leaving solely in April.

Furthermore, the central bank and other forecasters have predicted a slowdown in immigration over the next two years. However, they have been surprised by regular upward revisions to the immigration data series, which highlights the challenges in accurately compiling and interpreting the data.

Yet this latest data revealed downward revisions, with annual net immigration in March being reported as 4,700 less than previously stated, and the high in October last year being revised downwards by 1,340.

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