Demand for healthcare workers appears recession-proof but job prospects for business professionals are slumping, a new survey shows.
The quarterly member survey by Australian and New Zealand industry body Recruitment and Consulting Services Association found business professionals dropped from fourth to 14th place in the overall skills shortage list.
Demand for health professionals and nurses remained static.
For New Zealand alone, the skills shortage list was topped by non-building engineering associates and technicians, followed by health professionals, medical technicians, and drivers.
In fifth place were non-building professional engineers, then nurses, mobile plant operators, IT and telecommunications trades, IT and telecommunications technicians, with electrical trades (building) in 10th place.
Labour market conditions eased, as permanent placements dipped 4 per cent in the overall survey and temporary or contract placements rose 3 per cent, the association said.
The proportion of recruiters reporting that "job applicants have the right capabilities" had risen 12 per cent and there was a 9 per cent rise in the number reporting they had sufficient applicants for each job.
Overall, the survey found labour market conditions had improved back to the level experienced in April 2004.
"What we're now seeing is a return to a more sustainable level of employment demand," association chief executive Julie Mills said.
"Throughout last year and the beginning of 2008, the labour market was stretched so tight that employers were often unable to find the talent they needed; now there appears to be some relief at hand."
More employers were taking a risk-averse approach to hiring, and opting for temporary staff rather than permanent placements.
Despite the easing of the labour market, the lack of suitable candidates was still the third-biggest concern, cited by three-quarters of the recruitment industry. Top concerns were the economy and clients' lack of hiring intentions.
"Even though we have more candidates in the market and slowing employment growth, the downturn won't simply make the skills shortage disappear," Ms Mills said.
"Years of under-investment in education and training, coupled with the large number of baby boomers now retiring, means that we will continue to see pockets of skills shortages in certain roles and industries.
"We also need to remember that while the jobs market may be cooling, it is coming off a very high base of what was almost full employment. Employees who are worried about their jobs need to remember this, and try not to panic."