SEEK Employment Trends: spotlight on Waikato

Waikato is known as the agricultural powerhouse of New Zealand but the latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows that farming is just one industry on the rise across the region.

Waikato is one of the richest agricultural regions in the world.  Approximately 30% of all dairy herds in New Zealand are found in Waikato and more than a quarter of the country’s milk supply is produced in this lush North Island location. While milk prices have been volatile in recent times, global milk prices rose in September, signaling positive news for the region.

The level of job ads across Waikato are high relative to the past five years and have been experiencing an upward trend over the past four months, suggesting positive business conditions across Waikato.

A strategic location

Hamilton, Waikato’s most populous city, is only one-and-a-half hours’ drive from the thriving metropolis of Auckland and this is proving to be beneficial to the region’s growth. “We’re seeing a lot of employees and residents leaving Auckland due to high housing prices and moving to the Waikato region,” says Pete McCauley, Executive Director of recruitment firm Michael Page. “We’re also seeing many businesses entering in the region and as an alternative to operating in Auckland.”

Waikato’s manufacturing, transport and logistics industry increased by 11% year-on-year in October and looks set to benefit from the development of the inland port and logistics facility in Ruakura, which will serve as a key hub for the North Island’s freight system.

Looking beyond the farm

Employers in the region’s farming, animal and conservative industry were on the hunt for talent in October with SEEK job ads for the sector increasing by 13% year-on-year. However, there were plenty of industries that saw an even greater lift.

New Zealand’s well-documented construction boom is also having on impact on Waikato. Phill Van Syp, Managing Director at 1st Call Recruitment, notes that the increase in construction is a reflection of the region’s growing population, which is predicted to grow by about 40% between 2013 and 2063. “There’s an influx of people coming from Auckland and building is booming,” he says Van Syp. “It’s not only residential building that is growing across the region - we’re also seeing a number of infrastructure projects”.

Job ads for Waikato’s construction industry increased by 71% year-on-year while related industries, such as Trades and Services, grew by 32%. Meanwhile, job ads for engineering increased by 53% year-on-year while design and architecture were up by 9% over the same period.

More people in Waikato may also be good news for the region’s retail and consumer products industry, which saw a year-on-year increase in job ads of 15%. The population growth is also expected to create a lift in demand for healthcare services. SEEK job ads for the region’s healthcare and medical roles increased by 17% year-on-year.

Sales roles were also up by 17% over the same period while CEO and general management roles increased by 40%. In another positive sign of employment activity in the region, job ads for human resources and recruitment grew by 21% compared to the same time last year.

A slip for the public sector

Although job ads in Waikato have been enjoying an upward trend in recent months, industries such as government and defence saw a year-on-year decline of 42%. Despite this, Van Syp is not experiencing a decline in government roles. “I think it’s more a case of people tending to stay in roles rather than moving on,” he says. “The industry tends to be quite stagnant in the region.”

Job ads for science and technology also slipped by 13% compared to the same time last year while call centre and customer service job ads were down by 30% over the same period.

Job ads for the region’s Banking and Financial Services industry also saw a year-on-year decline of 13%. Van Syp says this may be due to an increase in automation. “We’re also seeing more bank branches closing,” he notes.

Despite a decline in job ads across some industries, experts say the appetite for talent in Waikato remains strong and this means employers may need to work harder to attract the brightest and the best. “Hamilton is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing cities and we’re seeing good growth in a lot of industries, as well as positive signs for the agriculture sector,” says Van Syp. “Employers need to think about their brand and the benefits they can offer in order to attract the best talent.”