Some Tauranga employers believe their inability to find staff is hindering growth as job vacancies continue to soar.
Figures from the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment show job advertisements in the Bay of Plenty jumped by 4.8 per cent in the quarter to December and 15.1 per cent over the year.
The quarterly increase was attributed to a spike in health care and medical, manufacturing industries, labourers and professional vacancies.
The news comes following the announcement on Wednesday that, the Bay's biggest employer, the kiwifruit industry, would need 18,000 workers for the 2019 harvest, which prompted a huge campaign.
Kicked off by Kiwifruit Growers Inc, chief executive Nikki Johnson said the labour drive would target local students, unemployed kiwis, retirees and backpackers ''to show them what the industry can offer and address any misconceptions about the work''.
Priority One special projects manager Annie Hill said one of the biggest challenges for employers was finding the skilled and unskilled staff they needed to run their businesses.
A recent business survey the economic agency conducted found 64 per cent of respondents were looking to employ additional staff while 48 per cent felt their ability to attract or retain staff with the necessary skills was a barrier to business growth.
Almost all agreed skill attraction was important to the regional economy, the report said.
''This issue will only increase as our population ages and more people move into retirement,'' Hill said.
1st Call Recruitment managing director Phill Van Syp said anyone who walked through its doors gets a job and 2019 was shaping up to be busier than ever.
Labourers, tradies and builders were in high demand, he said.
''We are the fastest growing region in the country. Jobs create jobs and that feeds into itself.
''We are anticipating another boomer year and all the indicators are positive.''
Talent ID director Kellie Hamlett said the demand for quality staff across most sectors was high.
''Specialised trades are still in high demand. With house prices increasing in Tauranga (at a much higher rate than salaries), the pull towards other more affordable locations such as Rotorua is having an impact on attracting talent to the Tauranga market. ''
Administration and professional services roles were popular and last month more than 100 candidates applied for an admin job.
Meanwhile, Metlifecare human resources general manager Huma Houghton said their five villages in the Bay of Plenty employed 200 staff.
Metlifecare would be opening two new care homes in the region later this year and expected to hire another 100 staff including registered nurses, caregivers, receptionists, kitchen staff, cleaners, activities co-ordinators and diversional therapists.
Every employer faced challenges, she said.
''There is a nationwide shortage of registered nurses that will become more acute in the coming years. We are active in providing feedback to proposed immigration changes and also exploring opportunities to source registered nurses from overseas and support them through attainment of New Zealand qualifications.''
Rex D'Arth from A1 Cobble Layers said the region was in the grips of a skills shortage.
He had a staff of three and getting qualified bricklayers was a problem.
Yudu editor Helen Van Berkel said Bay of Plenty statistics reflected what was happening elsewhere in the country.
Healthcare workers were the most-sought-after on Yudu's employment site after trades and services staff.
"These two sectors are consistent in clamouring for workers and both are proactive when it comes to finding them by seeking immigration changes and actively recruiting.
"Although it is definitely a workers' market at the moment, jobseekers need to be realistic about their demands as salaries and wages remain flat and look likely to continue to do so."
Tony Snow, chief executive of Tauranga-based professional IT services support company Stratus Blue, said he had found it hard to find skilled workers.
"It has been a bit tricky. It has taken us a while," he said. "We are probably still short staffed but in the last three years we have gone from four to 13 staff just in the Tauranga office."
Snow said the company had employed about four new workers in full time, part time and contract positions across its Tauranga and Whakatāne offices in the last six months.
Snow said his new recruits were mostly born overseas and had moved to Tauranga for work and were either employed through a recruitment agency or by word of mouth.
"Our big issue is we have got is finding skilled staff," he said. "We look at their attitude, but we can teach the skill. It just so happens these guys have all of the above."
Lokesh Attarde started working at Stratus Blue in November and said he enjoyed the lifestyle of living and working in Tauranga.
The 27-year-old was born in India but had been living in New Zealand for seven years.
"I love the culture here. It feels like a family and I am living away from my family so it is great."
Colleague Ilse Skead started work on February 18 and said she was lucky to have secured her first permanent role since recently moving to Tauranga from South Africa.
"I am new to everything, new to New Zealand, new to Tauranga," the 39-year-old said.
"They were willing to give a person a chance. That's what I like about this company."
Additional reporting Zoe Hunter