Thriving business activity in Hastings appears to be boosting job prospects in Hawke's Bay, with new data from Trade Me showing a huge hike in job listings for Hastings.
While Hawke's Bay last year had an unemployment rate double the national rate, head of Trade Me Jobs Jeremy Wade said latest data showed "encouraging" signs for the region - and Hastings in particular.
"New job listings were up 11.7 per cent in the final quarter of 2017 (Oct - Dec) on Q4 2016. The growth is centred around the Hastings area, where listings were up 26 per cent year-on-year. By comparison, Central Hawkes Bay was down 8 per cent and Napier was up 1.7 per cent.
"The most in-demand industry by some margin is trades and services. Transport and logistics, hospitality and tourism and retail are the other most popular. These five industries comprise about 50 per cent of the Hawke's Bay job market at present."
Mr Wade said while job hunters in the main centres had been "treading softly" as they waited for the new political landscape to settle, Hawke's Bay, like other regional centres, had solid, double-digit growth in new job vacancy listings year-on-year, with a small increase in average pay.
Although it was still "early days", there had been some "encouraging" signs for the Hawke's Bay jobs market.
"Job listings for the first two weeks of 2018 are 23 per cent up on a year ago. This is also outpacing the number of applicants, which is up 18 per cent for the same period."
Hastings District Council's economic development and urban affairs committee chairman, Damon Harvey, said he was not surprised to see a rise in advertised jobs, because there were staff shortages in several sectors at a busy time of year.
"I hear that there are major shortages - especially skilled labour and professional services. I have heard of one legal firm that is offering incentives to attract new staff.
"The trades sector is also struggling to find experienced workers.
"Lastly, we have hit the local harvest season for horticulture and viticulture and there will be plenty of labour requirements within this sector.
"Although it's a positive sign for the economy, it adds additional pressures including the risk of some services increasing due to demand."
The Government's official Household Labour Force Survey statistics shows that the Hawke's Bay and Gisborne regions had a combined unemployment rate of 8.8 per cent at the end of September.
But figures supplied to Hawke's Bay Today by Statistics New Zealand estimate that when considered separately, Hawke's Bay's unemployment rate is even higher - at 9.3 per cent. Statistics NZ said those estimates were below the survey's design level and were indicative only.
However, business organisations in the Bay say they are seeing evidence that the local jobs market is ramping up.
Napier-based DataNow has announced that it plans to create 10 new jobs over a three-year period and Hawke's Bay Business Hub operations manager Carolyn Neville said she was aware of other businesses also planning to grow.
Jobs growth was "particularly high" in some sectors, Ms Neville said.
"There is definitely growth out there."
Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wayne Walford said although he had not heard of specific cases of businesses planning to employ more staff, there was a growing confidence within the business community.
"At the moment, house prices have gone up and there is a little less tension around the cost of things and that always makes it easier for people to employ. If they have orders going forwards that is great, then it's easier in a confident environment to employ.
"The challenge I have seen is attracting people with skills, but we have seen people coming down from Auckland and places. So, that's going to make it easier for people to loosen up and bit and do a bit more."
Wairoa District Council economic development manager Kitea Tipuna said there were also signs of renewed activity in northern Hawke's Bay.
"Secondary industry businesses in Wairoa, like Affco, are often seeking to employ workers. Affco usually employs to capacity throughout the summer months, given that they recruit students who are seeking to earn pocket money before they head back to study. Now that this period is nearly up, Affco will be seeking a new stream of employees to fill those vacancies.
"At this point in time, there are various pockets and clusters of people in Wairoa who are passionate about cultural opportunities and moving into the cultural tourism space, as well as employment opportunities for people with specialist skills - for example, the trades and technical specialists for companies like Rocket Lab.
"The Wairoa District Council will continue to work with business to create more opportunities for employment in Wairoa."