Quarterly update: NZ market shows lift in job ads and salaries

Low business confidence appeared to have the opposite effect on the New Zealand economy last quarter.

Despite weak sentiment, the economy grew at the fastest pace in two years with GDP rising 1%, which was double that of the previous quarter. Positive results were shared across much of the economy - farm output rose amid a rebound in milk production, there was a rally from the construction and utilities industries and a general increase in household spending. So, how did this all translate to employment market?

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends showed advertising remained robust throughout June to September.  Job ads rose for the fourth month in a row in September and year-on-year growth reached 9%. Advertising for full-time positions appeared to expand at a slower rate than for part-time, contract / temp and casual / vacation specifications, however the outlook remained positive across the employment market.

Kate Ross, CEO of recruitment firm Kinetic, says demand for talent remains high – and so too is the competition.

“Despite business confidence being low across New Zealand, we are in a talent-short market with high demand for skilled candidates,” she says. “Competition for good quality candidates is high across all industries and most locations.”

Trends across the industries

New Zealand’s Farming, Animals & Conservation industry recorded a 27% year-on-year increase in job ads for the three months from July to September. This result may have been influenced by an economic boost across the industry, which rose 4.2% in the second quarter.

Healthcare & Medical is also trending higher with a 19% year-on-year growth for the quarter. The Government & Defence industry also recorded a 14% year-on-year increase and SEEK’s data shows an upward trend across the industry over the past four months

As digital transformation continues across the country, job ads in the Information & Communication Technology industry were also on the up. They rose by 13% compared to the same time in 2017 and have been trending higher over the past year.

A slip for Construction

While the Construction industry recorded an economic rebound in the second quarter, SEEK data shows job ads have been easing over recent months and declined 2% year-on-year from July to September. This has coincided with the housing market flattening in Auckland and Canterbury.

Guy Davidson, Managing Director at Colbalt Recruitment, says that while there has been a slip in demand for early stage project roles, such as procurement, planning and contracts, there is still good demand for roles required throughout the later stages of a project cycle, such as project managers.

“The challenge for employers is that demand is outstripping supply, so they need to be promoting themselves in the market,” he says. “Talent in this industry want to work for companies that are innovative and forward-looking in their approach.”

Salaries on the rise

Competition for talent remains strong across most industries, so it may be time to reconsider one of the most fundamental drivers of attraction – salaries. The latest data from SEEK shows average advertised salaries are climbing in many areas of the country, with larger regions of Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington supporting national growth. While positive trends are also evident in Southland, Gisborne and Tasman, they remain flat in Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Manawatu, and Northland has seen a downward trend over the past four months.

Across the industries, average advertised salaries were increasing at the strongest rate in Engineering. They were also creeping higher in Construction, Trades & Services, Information & Communication Technology, and Sales. SEEK data has also noted a rebound in average advertised salaries for Healthcare & Medical.

Related content: New Zealand’s highest paying jobs

Competing for talent

Salaries may be on the rise, but it takes more than money to attract and retain the best talent.

Ross says employers must get serious about work-life balance. “Remote working, the ability to buy additional leave, flexible start or finish times and compressed fortnights all rate highly,” she says.

The importance of work-life balance was highlighted in SEEK’s Laws of Attraction study, which revealed that work-life balance was among the top three drivers of attraction for New Zealand candidates.

Davidson says candidates are also looking for employers that are willing to invest in their careers. “In industries such as Construction, it can be hard to offer flexible hours due to the nature of the work,” he says. “However, career development is something that all candidates are looking for. Have conversations with candidates about what you can offer and how you are willing to support their careers.”

Davidson adds that a smooth recruitment process is also essential in the candidate engagement process. “Everyone needs to be onboard, no matter how busy they are,” he says. “There is no excuse for expecting a candidate to wait two weeks in between a first and second interview or changing interview dates. Recruitment should be a business priority.”

The employment market showed no sign over slowing down over the past quarter with SEEK data showing increases in job ads across the majority of industries. Now may be time to reconsider your recruitment strategy.