Quake city likely to lead job market

By David Maida

The construction industry is one of the strongest employment sectors in the country. Photo / Thinkstock
The construction industry is one of the strongest employment sectors in the country. Photo / Thinkstock

The employment outlook in New Zealand has remained better than in Australia, America and the UK but the job market remains competitive. Chris Riley, general manager of marketing, ManpowerGroup ANZ, says that to gain an advantage, jobseekers need to be flexible.

"This is the time for people to look at what's going on in the marketplace and what their skill set is and start to make some bold decisions on how can they upskill or retrain so that they can be a little bit more versatile across various sectors," Riley says.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey asked more than 650 New Zealand employers about their hiring intentions this quarter. About 25 per cent of plan to increase staffing levels. Just 7 per cent plan to cut staff. New Zealand's net employment outlook is 17 per cent compared with Australia at 13 per cent, America at 10 per cent and the UK at just 2 per cent.

"While I think New Zealand employers are still applying caution to what's going on around the world, I think maybe they're more accepting of the need to continue to hire and grow and improve productivity."

The survey showed hiring sentiment remains fairly stable compared with the previous quarter. More than two thirds of employers said their hiring expectations remained unchanged.

"You could say that no change is actually a positive thing right now," says Riley. There's a bit of a wait-and-see approach. I think the outcomes of the survey this quarter is pretty positive for a whole number of reasons, not just the numbers but the shift in some of the sectors as well."

Finance, insurance and real estate sectors sharply rebounded from the first quarter by 26 percentage points to a positive 19 per cent. But the strongest sector is transport and utilities, which is up 9 percentage points to 28 per cent. Mining and construction rose 7 percentage points to 16 per cent. Public administration and education made a significant jump, up 12 percentage points to 17 per cent.

Due to the Christchurch rebuild, hiring expectations have risen 11 percentage points to 28 per cent compared to the same quarter last year.

The earthquakes have solidified Christchurch's standing as the strongest employment market in the country. Manpower expects an additional 36,000 workers will be needed at the peak of reconstruction. The survey does not reflect the true demand for workers in Christchurch because reconstruction is just getting underway.

"I think investment is just starting to flow. But our understanding is that it is still not anywhere near in full flow."

But the outlook is not as bright for manufacturing, which dipped to just 7 per cent. The decline in manufacturing, partly due to the rising New Zealand dollar, is expected to continue. But the sector will survive, Riley says.

"Manufacturing is and always has been a big employer. It's not like manufacturing is going to disappear."

Despite manufacturing's low numbers, Riley says some areas within manufacturing are growing. His advice for candidates in manufacturing is the same for job seekers overall: "If we think about de-risking we would try and develop ourselves in such a way that we can be nimble and versatile and can move across sectors. That is the key to it."

The survey gives an insight as to how people can adapt for the future. Riley says both employers and employees should be open-minded and not too rigid in their thinking. People should be aware of market trends revealed in the survey but not all people will be willing to take advantage of these shifts.

"Not everybody is keen to learn and develop and upskill themselves. And that's fine if that's the case."

In Riley's view, it is best to remain broad-based.

"In today's society with the world trends - technology, freedom of choice with the removal of boundaries and people being able to move around the world - people who are able to have a more balanced portfolio will be able to take advantage of those things."

But being broad-based does not mean employees should feel compelled to change jobs frequently. Manpower reports that in a lifetime people may have up to 14 jobs but candidates are not disadvantaged for staying put. People can become highly skilled in a particular area which ads to their marketability and remuneration.

But the employment market remains uncertain, which means organisations as well as employees need to flexible in their expectations. Organisations used to be able to find people who were 90 to 95 per cent perfect for a role. Now companies are willing to look at candidates who are maybe 60 to 70 per cent matched.

"Candidates need to be open to upskilling and organisations need to have an appetite to invest in them."

Contact David Maida at: www.DavidMaida.com

- NZ Herald

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