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Employment outlook remains tough, if brightening slowly

Friday 23rd September 2011

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New Zealanders remain pessimistic about short term employment prospects, and have pegged back their expectations of improving conditions over the year ahead, according to the Westpac-McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index for September.

“Employment confidence has been dragged down by a fall in metropolitan employee sentiment,” said Richard Miller, the polling firm’s managing director.

Aucklanders’ confidence fell five points between June and September, to 104.4 points in September, meaning more optimists than pessimists about current conditions in the country’s largest city.

However, Wellingtonians turned pessimistic in the three months between June and September, despite an improvement elsewhere in the index among public sector employees’ about their job security.

Wellington’s index rating was down 6.7 points to 96.5, mainly because of expectations of lower earnings in the year ahead.

Across the country, current employment conditions are still viewed negatively, with the current conditions portion of the index slipping from 85.1 in June to 84.3 in September, while the index of expectations over the 12 months ahead also slipped back, but remained positive, at 117.6, from 120.1 three months earlier.

Against the trend was public sector employment confidence, which rebounded 5% to 104.5 in September, despite a government spending efficiency drive. Private sector workers were a little less optimistic than three months earlier, with a fall in that part of the index of 3.3 points to 105.1.

The results are consistent with yesterday’s Gross Domestic Product figures for the June quarter, which indicated a flat patch in the domestic economy, despite a raft of indicators that had led to hopes of a stronger second quarter’s growth.

On a nationwide basis, the current employment confidence index stood at 104.2 in September, down 1.9 points from June, the first drop since last December and still lower than the June 2010 index rating of 108.2.

The index stood at 121.2 in September 2008, when the global financial crisis hit, but a year into the domestic recession that hit New Zealand before the worldwide credit crunch.

“Like recent wage data, today’s survey suggests that employment and wage pressures related to Christchurch reconstruction are, at this stage, largely confined to Canterbury,” said Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephen.

The overall picture remained one of “cautious optimism”.


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