Rotorua's mayor says even he is surprised by the region's unenviable unemployment rate.
Figures released by Statistics New Zealand show the unemployment rate in Rotorua is currently at 8.8 per cent - above the national rate of 7.3, the worst rate in more than 10 years.
However, a recent national report shows job vacancies have rebounded in the past month, giving hope to thousands of job hunters.
Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said the region's unemployment stats caught him off-guard.
"I thought we'd be doing pretty well."
A new council-controlled organisation called Whakatipu Rotorua (Grow Rotorua) had been targeting the four sectors which the area had a natural advantage in - agriculture, forestry, wood processing and geothermal, he said.
"Those are the industries we are targeting that can improve employment prospects right across the district."
Grow Rotorua was trying to increase employers' confidence to boost job opportunities.
It had also been working with Waiariki Institute of Technology to make sure the courses it offers cater for what the labour force needs in the future.
"It's matching the education sector with the opportunity in job prospects long term."
It was early days, but it looked like the plan was working, Mr Winters said.
Nationally, job vacancies advertised online rose 15 per cent during the past year, according to the latest Jobs Online report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The report found demand for skilled workers was up nationwide but warned weak employment growth showed the labour market still faced significant challenges.
The latest results showed advertised skilled vacancies jumped by 5.6 per cent in October and total online job vacancies increased by 4.7 per cent compared with September.
Demand for skilled workers was up in the country's main centres, with the strongest growth in Auckland, followed by Wellington and Canterbury.
Growth in Canterbury was driven by the demand for skilled workers in the construction and engineering industries, and hospitality and tourism, the ministry's labour research general manager Vasantha Krishnan said.
"The Canterbury rebuild continues to drive demand for labour in the region."
In the past year, the number of jobs advertised online has jumped significantly - with skilled job vacancies up by 14.2 per cent and total job vacancies by 15 per cent.
However, Statistics NZ figures revealed last week that unemployment rose by 19,000 to 170,100 in the year to September, pushing the unemployment rate up from 6.6 per cent to 7.3 per cent - the highest since 1999.
Seek New Zealand general manager Janet Faulding said the job market was showing signs of improvement, though hiring activity was easing as the year drew to a close. "We have seen some strong year-on-year gains."
Fastest growing jobs nationally
Construction machinery operators
Civil engineers*Quarter to October 2012
Skilled job vacancies up 5.6 per cent month-on-month, 14.2 per cent year-on-year
All job vacancies up 4.7 per cent month-on-month, 15 per cent year-on-year
Industries with the biggest monthly increase:
Hospitality and tourism - 9.9 per cent
Sales, retail, marketing and advertising - 5.3 per cent
Construction and engineering - 4.5 per cent
Health and medical - 4.4 per cent
Information technology - 4.3 per cent
Source: Department of Labour