A new survey of pay rates shows a dramatic deterioration for those at the bottom of the heap, while rates for skilled workers are outpacing rampant inflation.
An analysis of 73,000 jobs listed on website Trade Me showed the labour market softening with employers finding it easier to attract staff.
In a survey comparing the first half of this year with the last quarter of last year, it said average pay rates had gone up by 3.7 per cent.
The average salary rose to $57,664 from $55,583 in the last quarter of 2007. Trade Me said the survey was only a snapshot comparison and not a scientific study.
The unskilled groups at the bottom of the heap went backwards in nominal terms before even taking the annual inflation rate of 4 per cent into account.
Kitchen staff were the worst paid at $28,831 and went down from $29,625 while waiting staff wages fell to $30,296 from $30,826, caregivers to $30,894 from $31,967, shop assistants to $31,668 from $32,565 and cleaners to $31,704 from $31,964.
Trade Me requires advertisers to tell it the salary range for job ads although the employers may not put make this information publicly accessible in their ads.
Trade Me Jobs head Jimmy McGee said the labour market had definitely softened with applications per job up 8 per cent over that period. He said wage inflation was strong.
IT continues to dominate the highest paid professions with IT architects, project managers and functional consultants, all averaging pay rates over $100,000.
"Outside of IT, the top five paid professions are doctors ($106,823), construction project managers ($95,378), engineering managers ($92,843), in-house legal counsel ($90,440) and financial controllers ($89,081)," Mr McGee said.
Although doctors were the second highest paid group, their average pay took a big tumble - to $106,823 from $114,135.
"We are seeing two distinct trends at present. Pay rates for unskilled and semi-skilled are flat, while pay rates for mid-level earners and the highly skilled are increasing at rates above the national average."
Wellington remains the highest paid location, buoyed by the large number of public servants and service companies, followed by Auckland and new entrant New Plymouth.
Regional and secondary urban areas such as Central Hawke's Bay and Timaru saw the greatest salary softening.
Selwyn was the worst paid region with an average wage rate of $37,047, followed by Waimakariri $38,321 and Waipa $39,531.
The biggest increase in job vacancies were accountants, travel consultants, construction site managers and accounts payable workers.
The greatest tightening was in environmental engineers, waste and water engineers, tertiary educators and doctors.