Positive signs in the job market with regions bouncing back

An update on New Zealand's jobs market.

By Trade Me 15 October 2020

The New Zealand job market is showing some very positive signs with 9 of the country’s 15 regions experiencing an annual increase in job listings in September, according to analysis of over 54,000 vacancies listed on Trade Me Jobs for the quarter ending 30 September 2020.

Trade Me Jobs spokesperson Matt Tolich said the job market had a much stronger Q3 than many had anticipated, with listings up 62% when compared to Q2. “Hiring picked up significantly in the third quarter of 2020 and taking into consideration the huge impact the lockdowns have had on businesses this year, the job market is looking in pretty good shape.”

Mr Tolich said when we look closely at the third quarter it was encouraging to see that listings dipped just 10% in September when compared to the year – a far cry from the drops seen in May, when listings were down 52%, and April when listings fell 72%.

“A lot of this was driven by big dips in the number of job listings in our main centres. However, when we look at the provinces, the vast majority in fact saw a year-on-year increase in job listings in September.”

Mr Tolich said the Bay of Plenty (2%) Gisborne (53%), Hawke’s Bay (25%), Manawatu/Whanganui (20%), Marlborough (1%), Nelson/Tasman (6%), Northland (17%), Southland (8%) and Taranaki (13%), all saw an increase in job listings in September when compared to this time last year.

Gisborne is one of the areas that saw an increase in September job listings compared to last year.

“It’s great news for job hunters in the provinces that these regions are bouncing back stronger than the year prior, which is in part thanks to the many regional shovel ready projects in the pipeline and our primary sectors getting back on track.”

Mr Tolich said the stable national average salary was further proof of the market’s recovery. “The national average salary was $62,226 in Q3, virtually unchanged on this time last year when it was $62,356.

“When compared with Q3 in 2019, we also saw the number of applications per listing increase by 11 per cent in the quarter.”

“Nationwide, the quarter was much better than many forecasted, with job listing growth improving incrementally over the three months. After a particularly strong September, many employers and job hunters will be feeling particularly optimistic about the coming months after what has been a very rocky year.”

However, Mr Tolich warned that the final quarter of the year will be crucial to understand what shape the job market is in post lockdown. “The job market has been somewhat propped up by the wage subsidy, which has undoubtedly reduced the negative impacts of COVID until this point. With the subsidy having ended for most in September, crunch time will come in October and November for the New Zealand job market and we may begin to see some cracks appear."

Auckland feels the impact of August lockdown

The Auckland job market certainly felt the impact of the second lockdown, with Auckland City alone seeing a 41% drop in listings in Q3 when compared to last year. “Unsurprisingly, the Auckland region was hit the hardest in Q3 as a result of the August lockdown, with Manukau (-31%) and North Shore City (-30%) also experiencing big drops in listing numbers.”

However, Mr Tolich said Auckland job listings were not hit as hard as the first, nationwide lockdown this time. “When compared with the year prior, job listings in April dropped by 70% in Auckland City when compared to the same month in 2019. Whereas, by comparison, listings dropped by 41% year-on-year in August when the second lockdown came into effect.

“This may be in part due to the deep cuts made by Auckland employers in the wake of the first lockdown which meant they were more resilient the second time round.”

Mr Tolich said it was encouraging to see the decrease in listings tailed off later in the third quarter. “In fact, in September, Auckland listings were up in fishing & forestry (20%), construction and roading (10%), and property (22%) when compared to September last year.”

$100,000+ roles impacted the most

Mr Tolich said job listings for roles paying $100,000 and over were hit hardest in Q3. “If we look at job vacancies listed for $100,000+, the number of listings in Q3 fell by 33% when compared with the same time last year.”

Mr Tolich said this was reflected in the high-paying sectors like IT (-27%), architecture (-16%), accounting (-37%), banking & finance (-33%) and marketing, media & communications (-37%) seeing a year-on-year drop in job listings numbers.

Wellington holds the title for highest paying region

Mr Tolich said Wellingtonians are still the top earners in the country.

”As in the previous quarter, the highest average salary was seen in Wellington City in Q3, at $74,173. This marks a 1% decrease on the average salary this time last year and makes Wellington one of only two regions that saw a year-on-year decrease in average salary in Q3.”

The other region that saw a decrease was Gisborne, which saw the biggest drop, with the regional average salary down 6.2% cent on this time last year, to $59,491. “Listings in Gisborne were actually up in September when compared to last year, but with salaries dipping it indicates that a higher volume of lower-paying roles are being listed in the region this year.”

The capital is still NZ's highest paying region.

Positive signs in the job market with regions bouncing back

Around the sectors

Mr Tolich said the sectors were a mixed bag in September with some sectors showing solid listing growth and others down significantly year-on-year.

Agriculture, fishing and forestry experienced a 19% jump in job listings when compared to September 2019. “We saw employers make deep cuts in the fishing & forestry sector at the beginning of the nationwide lockdown as businesses had to act quickly to save cash. Now these employers are looking to rehire and bolster their teams as they get back to business as usual.

“Thanks to a number of shovel ready projects in the pipeline, construction & roading and trades & services saw a 19% and 1% increase respectively in job listings nationwide in September when compared with the year prior.”

In the horticulture sector, listings increased by 10% year-on year, while applications were up by 7%t. "Anecdotally we are hearing from our clients in the horticulture sector that they are still experiencing significant talent shortages due to border closures and given the level of interest in these roles the shortage is likely to continue."

Mr Tolich said three sectors that were hit particularly hard were customer service (-45%), science & technology (-50%) and executive & general management (-50%). “We know that plenty of employers are more cash conscious in the current economic environment and as a result they’re less likely to invest in research and development which has impacted the science & technology sector. High-paying sectors like executive & general management are also impacted by businesses being more cash conscious, and a lot of employers will be thinking twice before looking to hire in this sector.”