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NZ employees still downbeat on jobs, see glimmers ahead

NZ employees still downbeat on job market, but see some glimmers ahead

By Jason Krupp

Dec. 21 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand employees are still downbeat on the labour market conditions, but see some glimmers of light ahead in the New Year.

The Westpac-McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index rose 0.9 points to 103.5 in the December quarter, having fallen 5.6 points in the previous three months, but is still weaker than the 104.3 level recorded in the same period last year. A reading above 100 indicates optimists outweigh pessimists.

The survey found employees' assessment of the current labour market is in worse shape than three months ago, having declined to 79 from 80.1 previously.

The subdued outlook contrasts with a gradual improvement in labour market statistics over the past year, with the number of employed up by 1.8%, the trend for unemployment falling, under employment dropping by 10% and total actual hours worked per week rising 3%, according to the report.

"The indications are that the jobs market remains tough, and possibly even tougher than we thought," said the bank’s chief economist Brendan O’Donovan and economist Donna Purdue in their report. "That suggests some downside risk to our employment growth forecasts through the latter stages of 2010."

The survey showed the major issue for employees is job availability, with a net 63.4% of respondents saying jobs are hard to get, up from a net 61.3% in September and close to the record high of 66.5%.

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The findings are consistent with the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's report for the November quarter, which said it expects the economy to remain subdued until the latter half of 2011.

In terms of earnings, employees were more optimistic with a net 21.4% saying they were earning more than a year ago, unchanged from September but up on the same period previously.

On a positive note, employees said they were more optimistic about the future, with employment expectations up 2 points to 119.8. The biggest influence was an increase in earnings expectations, with a net 40.3% of respondents saying they expect to be paid more in a year's time, up from a net 34.6% in September, and up from a net 36.2% a year ago.

Perceived job security also improved, rising to a net 11% from 7.2% previously, but below the 13.2% level in the previous year. Of some concern, only a net 8.2% of employees expect job opportunities to be plentiful next year, down from 11.3% in September.

Only five of the 11 regions reported a rise in confidence this quarter, led by Waikato at 111.8, up from 100.7 in September, followed by Otago, Wellington, Nelson/Marlborough, and West Coast. The Southland region recorded the biggest decline at 102.4 points, down 9.5, followed by Northland, Canterbury, Taranaki/Manawatu, Gisborne/Hawkes Bay, and Bay of Plenty.


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