Welfare numbers are dropping in the Wairarapa as new jobs are becoming available but an advocate for beneficiaries say finding work remains tough.
Ministry of Social Development figures show 3078 people in Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa were on benefits at the end of last year - down 18 on the same time the previous year and down by 127 on December 2013.
Last July, Masterton District Council launched an initiative aimed at creating 500 new jobs in the area within 12 months.
Council chief executive Pim Borren said a barometer on the north wall of the council offices recording new jobs had hit 117 and a new call centre was expected to boost that number.
The Powershop call centre had recently come to town and would employ more than 100 new staff, including a steady stream of young people.
Dr Borren said the honey industry was also going strong and expected to create some more jobs.
Masterton's retail sector was optimistic and spending had been high over the Christmas and New Year period.
Dr Borren said the council had been working hard to promote Masterton as a destination and the district had experienced population growth.
He said it was great news that the benefit numbers were dropping, though unemployment hadn't been too high in the past.
Wairarapa Advocate Service co-ordinator Trevor Mackiewicz said he'd seen some movement of people from welfare into work but not a great deal.
Some were finding part-time work but Mr Mackiewicz wasn't sure if they were moving off benefits altogether. Others were moving out of the district because of a lack of work.
Mr Mackiewicz said people were going to other towns to complete courses so they could upskill and get into the workforce.
"It is a big move. It's something that some are reluctant to do but they feel that they have to do because they're not going to achieve anything in the Wairarapa."
Those people might continue to receive benefits but wouldn't be included in the Wairarapa figures.
Often they wouldn't return to Wairarapa after their study because Work and Income wouldn't assist with the move unless they had a job lined up.
Mr Mackiewicz said he didn't believe Wairarapa's job situation had changed much over the past year. People were desperately looking for jobs, but not much was available. "People are finding it very hard to find jobs in the Wairarapa."
Nationwide, the number of people receiving a main benefit fell by 2.5 per cent in the past 12 months. Ministry of Social Development figures show 301,349 working-age people, or 10.7 per cent of the working-age population were receiving a main benefit at the end of December 2015.
According to the figures, 57.4 per cent of main benefit recipients were female and 42.6 per cent were male. Nearly 70 per cent of main benefit recipients had been receiving a benefit continuously for more than one year.
For more articles from this region, go to Wairarapa Times-Age