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Good start to year for NZ job market but softer outlook

Tuesday 8th March 2011

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The New Zealand job market made a positive start to the year but is set to soften again in the next few months, according to two separate job surveys.

Seek's New Job Ad Index rose nearly 2% in February, the third consecutive month of growth. The last three months have seen a 7.2% rise in the number of new job ads listed on Seek's website as the job market continued to grow, Seek New Zealand general manager Janet Faulding said.

"This rise is largely due to the burst of hiring activity traditionally seen in January continuing into February this year," she said.

However, hiring activity halted in Christchurch after the deadly 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, resulting in an 8.7% fall in the number of new job ads in the Canterbury region for February.

The five most sought-after employees in February were civil and structural engineers, government workers, nurses, automotive tradespeople, and information and communications technology consultants.

Competition appeared to be growing for positions, with an increase in the number of applications outstripping the rise in the number of new job ads, she said.

The most sought-after positions for the month were call centre operator, help desk and IT support, receptionist, retail assistant, and warehousing and distribution roles.

Looking forward, the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey pointed to reduced hiring intentions for the three months to the end of June.

"New Zealand is facing the early onset of drought in Northland and Waikato, an ongoing housing market slump, a rise in GST and fuel prices and not to mention the impact of the earthquakes in the Christchurch region," said Lincoln Crawley, managing director of Manpower Australia and New Zealand.

"All of these events and the uncertainty they bring will impact employers' willingness to hire."

The survey of more than 650 New Zealand employers showed hiring intentions for the second quarter fell slightly with Manpower's Net Employment Outlook at 15%, down from 17% in the first quarter.

The index is seasonally adjusted.

Before seasonal adjustment, the number of employers planning to expand staffing levels rose to 26% from 24% last quarter, the number of employers planning to cut staffing levels remained at 8%, and those planning no change fell to 65% from 67%.

The net employment outlook was slightly more favourable than a year earlier, up one percentage point.

Hiring optimism fell the most among employers in public administration, and wholesale and retail trade, down eight and five percentage points respectively, while the outlook in the mining and construction sector jumped 20 points from the first quarter.

Employer optimism in the mining and construction sector, and in transport and utilities, was due to the massive rebuilding effort ahead in Christchurch and Canterbury after the recent devastating earthquakes.

But the sectors would also struggle to attract enough skilled staff, with tradespeople and engineers already in New Zealand's top five skills shortages, according to Manpower.

"One of the dangers in any major rebuilding effort is poaching skills from other parts of the country and other industries to feed the talent shortage on the ground," Crawley said.

"To some extent, this is inevitable but we need to think strategically about where the skills will come from and what projects will be stalled as a result."



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