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Pay rises lift employment confidence; outlook weak

By Paul McBeth

June 25 (BusinessDesk) - Employment confidence recovered from a dip at the start of the year as more surveyed workers reported pay increases.

The Westpac McDermott Miller employment confidence index rose 2.7 points to 116.9 in the June quarter, reversing some of the gloomier outlook in the March period. Of that, the present conditions index rose 2.3 points to 122.4 and the employment expectations index was up 2.9 points at 113.2.

The greater optimism was attributed to the rise in past earnings growth, with a net 28.6 percent of the 1,555 respondents saying they were earning more now than a year earlier, up from 16.6 percent in March. And a net 28.2 percent expect to be earning more in a year's time, up from 19.3 percent in March.

But Dominick Stephens, Westpac New Zealand chief economist, said the underlying details of the survey were soft despite the headline increase, due to deteriorating perceptions of job opportunities.

"Households have not perceived a pick-up in wage growth in recent years, even as the labour market has tightened," he said.

Government data show average weekly earnings for all employees rose to $1,061.02 in the March quarter, up 3.8 percent from a year earlier, and were 34 percent higher than the $794.19 average in the 2009 March quarter.

As at March 31 this year, about 80.2 percent of the country's 2.66 million employees were in full-time work, compared to 78.9 percent in March 2018 and 77.8 percent a decade ago.

In the survey, a net 16.2 percent of respondents said there are plenty of job opportunities at the moment, down from a net 23.5 percent in March. A net 5.7 percent expect to see fewer job opportunities in a year's time, compared to 1.8 percent seeing fewer jobs in March.

Westpac said the deterioration in the outlook for employment wasn't universal, with older people more pessimistic than young people.

Respondents said they felt more secure in their jobs, with a net 17.2 percent saying their position was more likely to be secure over the coming year, up from 13.3 percent in March.

Statistics New Zealand will release the June quarter labour market figures on Aug. 6.

(BusinessDesk)

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