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Labour market situation

Here’s our take on the New Zealand labour market as of February 2014, some of the trends, and what’s likely to happen in the coming year.

Key trends

The economy moved from strength to strength in 2013 and 2014 is expected to be similarly positive.

Key trends influencing employment opportunties:

  • Business confidence is increasing and with it employers' hiring intentions.
  • The major metropolitan regions have experienced the greatest economic growth – led by Auckland and Canterbury.
  • The Canterbury rebuild is picking up and with it demand for people working in construction and associated industries.
  • The agriculture sector is recovering well from the drought that afflicted much of the country in 2013.
  • Unemployment is lower in most South Island regions than it is in the North Island.
  • Demand for people who do highly skilled jobs (managers and other professionals) is strong and increasing.
  • For lower-skilled workers, most job growth is predicted in food processing, retailing, accommodation, agriculture and construction.

Employment up, unemployment down as labour market continues to improve

Graphs, a pencil and a calculator sitting on a table
Unemployment fell to 6% in the December quarter

The improving economy is now being reflected in employment growth. According to Statistics New Zealand’s Household Labour Force Survey:

  • the number of people employed in New Zealand increased by 24,000 (1.1%) in the quarter ending December 31, 2013
  • the number of people employed rose by 66,000 (3%) in the year.

Growing optimism that the economy is on the right track is reflected in employers hiring intentions for the year ahead. According to the Hudson Survey of Employers’ Hiring Expectations, about a third of employers expect to take on new staff in the next year.

Unemployment falls to lowest point since 2009

The unemployment rate fell to a three-year low in the December quarter:

  • Unemployment fell from 6.2% to 6%  its lowest point since June 2009
  • Over the year to December, the number of people unemployed decreased by 14,000, or 8.9%.

Unemployment lowest in South Island regions 

The regions with the lowest unemployment rates were all in the South Island:

  • Canterbury (3.4%)
  • Tasman/Nelson/Marlborough/West Coast (4.2%)
  • Otago (4.2%).

The regions with the highest unemployment rates were:

  • Bay of Plenty (9.3%)
  • Northland (9%).

Canterbury rebuild lifting employment

In 2013, 7,400 jobs were created in the building and construction industry in Canterbury

Of the 19,000 jobs created in Canterbury in 2013, most of them were in two industry groups:

  • Retail trade and accomodation and food services, which created 7,600 new jobs.
  • Construction, which created 7,400 new jobs.

The Canterbury rebuild (following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes) is continuing to gather pace as more work moves from design and planning stages to construction.

The rebuild will likely be a major influence on national employment figures until at least 2018.

Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list highlights occupations in shortage that are needed during the rebuild of Canterbury.

Canterbury skill shortage list (PDF - 180KB)

Mixed fortunes across industries

Professional, scientific, technical, administrative and support industry grouping experienced the greatest employment growth in the December quarter

Some industries are performing better than others and this is reflected in job opportunities.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Quarterly Labour Market Report, February 2014, the industries that showed strongest employment growth over the year were:

  • Professional, scientific, technical, administrative and support industries (up 26,400, or 10.9%)
  • Retail trade and accommodation (up 20,700, or 6.0%)
  • Health care and social assistance (up 16,600, or 7.1%)
  • Construction (up 14,800, or 8.6%)
  • Manufacturing (up 14,300, or 6.0%).

The industries that saw the greatest declines in employment were: 

  • Public administration and safety (down 6,200, or 5%)
  • Wholesale trade (down 4,100, or about 4.3%).

Auckland and Canterbury leading the way

Auckland and Canterbury continue to lead the way in employment growth. In the year to December 2013:

  • employment in Auckland was up 48,000, or 6.7%, with growth led by professional, scientific, technical, administration and support services (up 20,900) and retail trade and accommodation (up 14,200).
  • employment in Canterbury was up 19,200, or 5.9%, with growth led by retail trade and accommodation (up 7,600) and construction (up 7,400).

Unemployment in Auckland and Canterbury also fell in the quarter:

  • falling from 6.7% to 6.3% in Auckland
  • going from 4.2% to 3.4% in Canterbury.


  • ANZ Economics and Market Research Team, ‘ANZ February Job Ads Report – Going in the Right Direction’, February 2014, (www.anz.co.nz)
  • ANZ Regional Trends, 'Fly My Cities', February 2014 (www.anz.co.nz)
  • Hudson, ‘New Zealand Hiring Expectations- Quarter 4, 2013’, November 2013 (www.nzhudson)
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘Jobs Online Monthly Report’, January 2014 (mbie.govt.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘February 2014 – Quarterly Labour Market Report’, August 2013, (mbie.govt.nz).
  • Statistics New Zealand, ‘Household Labour Force Survey – December 2013 Quarter’, March 2014, (www.stats.govt.nz).
  • Statistics New Zealand, ‘Quarterly Employment Survey – December 2013 Quarter’, March 2014, (www.stats.govt.nz)