A Whangarei mum who had been job hunting for a year before landing a job says finding work in Northland remains a struggle despite the region's unemployment rate dropping.
Statistics New Zealand figures for the region showed the unemployment rate dropped 0.5 per cent from 8.7 per cent in the September 2014 quarter to 8.2 per cent in the September 2015 quarter.
In the six-month period between March and September this year the unemployment rate also fell 1.7 per cent from 9.9 per cent.
Nationally, the unemployment rate increased to 6 per cent in the September 2015 quarter (up from 5.9 per cent) - the first quarterly fall in employment in three years.
Whangarei woman Chris Schreuder, who was job hunting this time last year, said she had not noticed any improvement in Northland's job market.
"I know people looking to get into the Northland job market who have been looking for months and are really struggling to find anything."
During her job search she applied for anything she could but said there were many barriers she faced - including the fact she had been out of work for 10 years after studying and being a mum.
"A lot of the jobs advertised were for specific skills like for a registered nurse or a gas welder. And so everyone went for the jobs that were more general.
"I was also overqualified. I had two degrees and I think that might have been a deterrent because employers might have thought I'd get sick of it and leave," she said.
In February this year Ms Schreuder was employed as an admin for Northland Youth Theatre. She said if she had not landed the job she might have given up.
Northland Regional Council economist Darryl Jones said while a drop in unemployment was positive it was nothing to jump up and down about.
"There has been no big change from the last quarter. In terms of where we stand we're not going forward or back but it's good to see a rise in the number of people who are employed and it is encouraging," he said.
While Northland's unemployment rate dropped, the employment rate also dropped from 57.3 per cent in the September 2014 quarter to 56.9 per cent in the September 2015 quarter.
Mr Jones said this occurred because the statistics for unemployment only included people in the labour force who were looking for jobs.
The employment statistics included those in the working age population (those aged 15 or over) who were in jobs.
He said the drop in the employment and unemployment could reflect Northland's ageing population, particularly given the working age population in the region gradually increased from 128,500 in September last year to 130,400.
"As people get older and stay older you have more people who are not employed but not looking for work - this could be why both the employment and unemployment rate has dropped."
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins said the statistics for Northland were positive and showed an increase in business confidence.