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Labour market situation
Here’s our take on the New Zealand labour market as at November 2013, some of the trends, and what’s likely to happen in the next year.
The labour market continues to improve – employment levels are slowly increasing and unemployment levels are gradually falling. This pattern is expected to continue over the next three years.
- Auckland and Christchurch, and to a lesser extent Wellington, led the way in employment growth for the quarter.
- The accommodation and food service industry and the construction industry – especially in Auckland and Canterbury – saw the greatest employment growth over the quarter.
- Some primary sectors, particularly fisheries and forestry, experienced the greatest decline in employment levels.
- Employment growth over the next three years is expected to be strongest for highly skilled jobs.
Employment up, unemployment down as labour market continues to improve
The number of people employed in New Zealand increased by 0.7% for the quarter ending September 2013, according to Statistics New Zealand’s Household Labour Force Survey. Both full-time and part-time employment increased in the quarter. Over the year to September 2013 the number of people in the workforce rose 0.9%.
The September survey also recorded a drop in unemployment, with the number of unemployed going from 6.4% to 6.2%. Unemployment was down from 7.3% a year ago. It is now at its lowest point since January 2010, though still well above pre-recession levels.
The improving employment and unemployment rates stem from the on-going economic recovery, which has translated into businesses being in a better position to take on new staff. 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 – the highest rate recorded since the third quarter of 2008.
Other factors pointing to a steady improvement in the labour market are:
- the continued rise in the number of advertised job vacancies
- a slight increase in retail spending compared to the previous quarter
- a rise in the average number of hours people are working
- some employers having trouble filling vacancies for highly skilled workers.
Mixed fortunes across industries
Some industries are performing better than others and this is reflected in job opportunities.
Those that showed strongest employment growth over the year included:
- retail trade and accommodation and food services – up by 25,200 full-time equivalent workers or 7.6%
- construction – up by 11,200 full-time equivalent workers or 6.7%.
However, partly due to the strong New Zealand dollar, some primary industry sectors have struggled: employment in agriculture, forestry and fishing is down 12%, or about 18,300 workers.
According to the Hudson survey, employers in the construction, property and engineering sectors had the highest intentions to hire, followed by government, manufacturing and financial services/insurance.
Auckland and Canterbury leading the way
Auckland and Canterbury continue to lead the way in employment growth. Much of this growth has been driven by retail trade, accommodation and food services, construction and manufacturing.
In the year to September 2013, Auckland employment rose by 55,500 people, while unemployment decreased by 12,000 people. The Auckland unemployment rate fell 1.9% to 6.7% over the year to September 2013.
Christchurch rebuild lifting employment
The Christchurch rebuild is continuing to gather pace as more work moves from design and planning stages to construction.
- The unemployment rate in Canterbury was 4.2% in September – much lower than the national figure of 6.2%.
- Employment in Canterbury rose 7.3% (6,500 jobs) in the year to September.
Construction is the single biggest factor driving growth in Canterbury. However, there has also been strong employment growth in other industries such as health care and manufacturing.
The rebuild of Christchurch is expected to gather pace in early 2014 and 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, following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.
What does all this mean for job seekers?
With many employers hiring or looking to hire in the near future, job opportunities are, on the whole, improving.
- there is significant regional variability in demand for workers – your opportunities will likely be best in Auckland and Canterbury.
- there is significant industry variability in demand for workers – industries such as construction, retail, food services and manufacturing are experiencing increasing demand, while demand for workers is weaker for primary industries such as forestry and fisheries.
- opportunities are best for highly skilled workers.
Employment outlook to 2016
The outlook for job seekers should continue to improve over the next three years.
- The unemployment rate is expected to continue tracking down, eventually falling to below 5% by March 2016.
- Demand for people who do highly skilled jobs (managers and other professionals) is expected to be high.
- For lower-skilled workers, job growth is predicted in food processing, retailing, accommodation, agriculture and construction
- Employment growth will be strongest in Canterbury and Auckland.
- ANZ Economics and Market Research Team, ‘ANZ September Job Ads Report – The Worm has Turned’, November 2013, (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’, September 2013 (mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘Labour Group, Short-Term Employment Prospects: 2013-2016’, June 2013, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘November 2013 – Quarterly Labour Market Report’, August 2013, (mbie.govt.nz).
- Statistics New Zealand, ‘Household Labour Force Survey – September 2013 Quarter’, November 2013, (www.stats.govt.nz).
- Statistics New Zealand, ‘Quarterly Employment Survey – September 2013 Quarter’, November 2013, (www.stats.govt.nz)