Bay of Plenty's employment rate is on the rise and unemployment is down as national employment hits its highest rate since before the global financial crisis.

Tradespeople told the Bay of Plenty Times they had to hire new staff to keep up with construction demand while a forestry leader said the industry was the best it has been in a decade.

The Statistics NZ household labour force survey shows the Bay of Plenty's employment rate rose 2.3 per cent to 61.7 per cent in the three months to March - up 4.3 per cent from a year ago.

The employment rate represents the percentage of the working-age population that is employed.


The number of people employed in the Bay of Plenty rose 7800 to 123,600 in the quarter, and was up 13,600 from the same time the previous year.

Meanwhile, unemployment in the Bay of Plenty dropped to 7.1 per cent from 9.3 per cent in the previous quarter, compared with 8 per cent at the same time last year.

About 9500 people were unemployed last quarter, compared with 11,900 three months earlier, but the rate remained unchanged from the same time last year.

Marra Construction manager Aaron McCormick told the Bay of Plenty Times he hired two people last week and was interviewing for a site manager.

The company was hoping to get staff levels back up to pre-recession numbers by the end of this year, he said.

"Work is definitely starting to pick up, we have been really busy with jobs coming in," he said.

Todd Grey, of Todd Grey Builders, said he had enough work to take him through to Christmas.

"I would say this has been the biggest lift in inquiries for some time, the signs are it's here to stay for some time."

Forest Industry Contractors Association chief executive John Stulen said booming exports to China were giving Tauranga's forestry industry a boost.

A combination of "more jobs and more hours" had helped contribute to employment growth in the sector, while wood volumes and prices were peaking, he said.

"It's the best it's been since October 1994."

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dave Burnett said they were seeing more confidence in the business sector and manufacturing, which translated into more jobs.

"The manufacturing industry locally has been very busy, builders are flat out and that makes people confident to hire again."

Beneficiary numbers have also dropped across the Western Bay as national welfare numbers hit their lowest point in five years.

Ministry of Social Development figures show 10,829 Western Bay residents, including Tauranga, received benefits in the three months to March 31, nearly 600 fewer than during the same period last year.

Nationally, employment is at its highest since December 2008, with the number of Kiwis employed at 2.32 million.