A Tauranga business owner has spent "thousands of dollars" on Trade Me and Seek ads to find staff over the past two years but is struggling to find employees.
This comes as it can be revealed the number of beneficiaries in the Bay of Plenty has increased by 40 per cent over the past five years, according to Ministry of Social Development data.
At the end of June, 33,297 people in the Bay of Plenty were receiving one of the Ministry of Social Development's main benefits. This was compared to 23,658 people at the end of June 2017.
Main benefits for those of working age include: Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support, Supported Living Payment, Youth Payment and Young Parent Payment, Emergency Benefit, Emergency Maintenance Allowance, Jobseeker Support Student Hardship, Widow's Benefit Overseas, and Sole Parent Support Overseas.
Satori Lounge sushi restaurant and bar owner Lisa Wilson told the Bay of Plenty Times she has spent "thousands of dollars" trying to find employees over the past two years.
The jobs are usually filled by people from overseas on working holidays, who haven't been able to come to New Zealand due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Wilson said she had to be creative to cover her staff shortages - her dishwashing job is now split between two part-time workers, most of her front-of-house staff are students, and she has to close on Sunday and Monday to give her staff a break.
"When you interview someone, it's the other way round - it's not them, it's me preparing for the interview...I know they're going to five other places, [and] I hope they choose us.
"I'm having to pay huge hourly rates, I've just had to put all my prices up because...you've got to be paying it to try to get the people."
She said it was hard when customers didn't understand the issues they were facing: "I don't think people understand what's going on behind the scenes of us struggling to keep our business going.
"It's just really hard at the moment - I just feel trapped in it, to be honest."
The Right Staff recruitment agency owner Claudia Nelson said filling roles had definitely become more difficult in the past three to six months.
"I think it's just a reflection of the shortage of the labour market," Nelson said.
"Interestingly, it's harder to get really good candidates for operations roles."
Nelson said she had observed a trend of employers learning flexibility, creating more part-time opportunities to fill what had previously been full-time roles.
"It's quite possible there are more people in work and not working full-time hours."
Nelson said Covid-19 and illness had made things "very difficult".
"With Covid absences, everyone has been working very hard. At one stage vacancy rates were very high."
Agoge recruitment chief executive and founder Andrew Nicol said the struggle to fill vacancies was "everywhere".
"Our applicant numbers are down. Going into summer, when the supply chain and industrial sectors pick up, it's going to be hard.
"Just because there are more people on [the ministry's] books doesn't mean there's a lot of people looking for work."
Nicol said low unemployment was good for the economy but in these circumstances made recruiters' jobs harder.
"We're losing workforce but still getting economic growth and that's driving the gap."
Nicol said low immigration over the past two years had also affected shortages.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Statistics New Zealand reported the unemployment rate had edged up to 3.3 per cent in the three months ended June from 3.2 per cent, against expectations of a fall to a record low of 3.1 per cent.
It also said while 47,485 people had migrated to New Zealand in the year ending May 2022, there were also 58,158 migrant departures, a net loss of 10,674.
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller said something was "clearly wrong" with the Government's approach to welfare.
"For some reason, Labour seems content to simply allow thousands of New Zealanders to languish on the benefit without any direction, support, or consequences.
"It becomes harder to reconnect with the workforce the longer someone spends on a benefit, and businesses who can't find staff cannot operate at full capacity.
• 'May as well go bush': BOP rent most expensive in the country, new data says
• 'Free money': Aussies in Australia 'surprised' to get cost of living payment
• Nation of Debt: Just how much does every Kiwi owe now?
"Accountability must exist in the welfare system so that people who can work, do.
"New Zealanders expect obligations to find work are enforced, and consequences are imposed when these obligations are not met."
It was revealed yesterday that the Government's Mana in Mahi programme had supported 5000 job-seekers into jobs, exceeding the target of 4000 set following its extension in 2019.
Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni said 11 per cent of working-age New Zealanders currently received a main benefit.
"In the same period after the Global Financial Crisis, it was 12.5 per cent.
"While numbers of people on Jobseeker are falling each quarter, we know we are not out of the woods yet and are working hard to get people back into the workforce - and we are having success."
Sepuloni said the GFC had taught them that things will "take time to return to normal but we are on the right track".
"We invested heavily in work-focused case management and programmes such as Mana in Mahi and we are now seeing record numbers of people move off benefit and into work."
At the start of the pandemic, Treasury predicted 487,000 people would be on a main benefit, Sepuloni said. Because of the wage subsidy, the numbers had never gone above 400,000. - Additional reporting Talia Parker