A survey of 1000 firms by the Auckland Business Chamber has revealed a desperate need for skills at all levels with respondents highlighting more than 6700 job vacancies.
Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said he had never seen shortages in the labour market this bad.
The survey revealed an immediate need for 4400 roles in Auckland plus a further 1300 for construction and about 1000 for the aged care sector.
Barnett said he had broken out vacancies for construction and aged care workers because many of those were listed by one recruitment firm and two large building firms.
One recruiter listed vacancies for 984 aged care nurses.
One large construction firm had 700 vacancies and another had 600.
But the rest of the vacancies were spread across a wide range of individual employers, with 87 per cent of the respondents indicating they had a shortage of skills now or in the immediate future.
More than 800 of the 1000 respondents had administration vacancies. More than 250 cleaners were needed, and more than 300 hospitality workers.
Nearly 250 crane operators were needed across eight different companies.
In the tech sector more than 800 software developers were needed, with one company seeking 62 senior developers, one seeking 44 and others seeking between 10 and 20.
Even the recruitment sector was struggling with 123 job vacancies reported for both inhouse HR and external recruitment firms.
These numbers were from responses the chamber had received in just the first 48 hours, Barnett said.
The survey was still out with the Chamber's 4000 member firms.
"What we are seeing is firms poaching from each other which is creating wage inflation that is not sustainable," he said.
This was particularly prevalent in the technology sector, transport and hospitality.
"Truck drivers is another one, they reckon they've lost thousands already to Australia.
Australian recruiters were now active in Auckland and, particularly in the tech and construction sectors, with offers of $30,000 more in wages plus relocation and expenses, he said.
Barnett said he didn't accept the view that a tight labour market would drive up wages and improve productivity.
"If you are adding skills, you're growing your sector and growing your competitiveness and innovation," he said.
"You stop doing all of those things when you are in this environment".
Simply raising wages was not boosting skills, he said.
"As an example in technology, the person on $60,000 who went up to $80,000, then went up to $100,000 knows no more than when they were on $60,000.
So you're not improving productivity, all you are doing is raising the cost of doing business."
Those costs were passed on to customers and fed into rising inflation, he said.
"It's just not sustainable."
Barnett said he spoke to one tech company owner "on the verge of saying 'what's the point, why don't I just wind up the business'".
"He reckons the longest he can hold anybody is about 90 days because that's the term of the contract if he gets them through an agent."
He said he had spoken to one small business owner who had paid out more than $16,000 in job advertising this year.
"Another SME with nine staff, some who had been with them over five years, had lost all their staff".
While Barnett accepted that the pandemic made border restrictions inevitable, he said the Government needed a plan to take advantage of rising number of vaccinated people around the world.
"There must be some way to identify those people as a resource and come up with a way of letting them into New Zealand," he said.
"We have such high, positive profile at the environment we could probably take the first cut of some for the best in the world".
That was about having good processes in place.
"The alternative is to sit there and watch as we lose those skills, to sit there and not be able to satisfy those markets and to not be the innovator".
Barnett said the biggest frustration he heard from business was that the Government didn't seem to be listening and there didn't seem to be a plan.
"This is just a small slice of the Auckland market, 1000 companies in 48 hours that have put their hands up in frustration".
Labour market data due next Wednesday is expected show unemployment has continued to fall from the current rate of 4.7 per cent.