A local union organiser has slammed new research suggesting workers are feeling more optimistic about the job market.
Western Bay EPMU organiser Raymond Wheeler said a "flat job market" combined with minimal wage increases had not created a positive feeling among employees.
His comments follow the release of a new survey, which found workers rate better pay and employer benefits as the most important factor when choosing a job - with job security slipping down the list.
"I'm surprised job security isn't up there because if people haven't got job security, they can't get loans. If they can't get loans, they can't service mortgages."
The results could reflect worker discontent among those who have been starved of a pay rise in the last two to three years, Mr Wheeler suggested. "Maybe money is now a priority because, in the last few years, they haven't got anything."
Research carried out by international recruitment agency Randstad surveyed 7000 Kiwi workers. Nearly one-in-five respondents rated competitive salary and employee benefits as the most important factor when choosing an employer.
Long-term job security, which was found to be the number one determining factor in last year's survey, was rated second most important by respondents.
New Zealand director of Randstad Paul Robinson said worker outlook was beginning to improve, after slumping in the past two years.
"Over the past couple of years, there has been limited movement in the job market due to uncertainty, job insecurity and limited optimism, so employees chose to sit tight and work hard through tough financial times. "As optimism increases and the market begins to open up, people will start to reconsider benefits important to them such as higher remuneration packages, the ability to be more mobile and work outside of the office, or have flexible working hours," he said.
Long-standing employees, who stuck by businesses through the global financial crisis, needed to feel valued by organisations, Mr Robinson said.
However, unemployment figures show many people are still struggling and suggest job security is still likely to be at the forefront of many workers' minds.
New Zealand's unemployment rate stood at 6.9 per cent for the three months to December, according to Statistics NZ.