The number of people who are casually keeping an eye out for new job opportunities is soaring, according to a survey by recruitment company Hudson.

It found that 46 per cent of candidates registered with Hudson now considered themselves to be passive job seekers, up from 34 per cent in the second half of 2016.

The number of active job seekers, meanwhile, has dropped significantly from 41 per cent to 21 per cent.

The shift comes as confident employers plan to either increase or maintain their staff numbers as a result of a strong economy and a positive outlook -- a trend that is causing aggressive competition for staff this year.

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Hudson New Zealand regional general manager Roman Rogers said employers were facing increased pressure to play a more active recruitment role in order to find the best talent amid a largely idle candidate pool.

"On the one hand employers are jostling to offer candidates increasingly attractive propositions and on the other hand employers have to work harder to retain their best talent with the ever-present threat of head-hunting competitors."

Social media was making it easier for people to keep a running tab on opportunities across a range of platforms, all while keeping employers on tenterhooks, he said.

"People are redefining what passive means in the modern age. You've got this large pool of talent who are not necessarily actively looking to jump ship, but who are in that grey area where they are open to the right opportunity should it come along and are keeping an eye on what's out there."

He said the growing number of passive job seekers should raise a red flag for employers who needed to be more vigilant when it came to holding onto valued employees.

"Cultural fit" was becoming increasingly important to prospective employees, and employers and recruiters needed to factor this into their job offerings.

"Creating an appealing offering that engages candidates and acknowledges more than just salary, but increasingly attractive issues like social responsibility, flexible work options, diversity and corporate culture is a must in this market," Rogers said.