Whanganui recruitment agencies say they have jobs they can fill immediately if only they can find people who want to do the work.
Graeme Musson of OCC, which trades as On Call Labour, said the business had 16 jobs it could have filled on Monday. They were in manufacturing, food processing, building labouring, packing and warehousing.
"We had one this morning that came in and he's starting after lunch," Musson said.
Even businesses like Affco's Imlay meatworks, where jobs are usually handed between families over generations, are advertising for staff. So are fast food businesses. Burger King duty manager Kadee Lethaby said its vacancy sign had been taken down, but people could walk in with a CV any time.
Most of New Zealand was in the same Covid-19 growth situation.
Musson said he had been in the recruitment business for 17 years, and had never seen person power run so short. He knew of one manufacturer with machines lying idle, because it could not get staff to work them.
OCC has 30 people on its books, and 24 were out working on June 17. At the same time it had 16 jobs it couldn't fill. Another Whanganui agency was in a similar position, with 15 to 30 jobs available.
Employers were realising they had to make their jobs attractive in order to keep staff, Musson said.
He knows of a Whanganui business that has installed a soft serve icecream machine for staff.
Another has Pizza Fridays, and another gives full and part-time staff a sports afternoon on full wages.
The employers are also offering people flexible working hours and other benefits.
"You just have to think outside the square," OCC staff member Craig McClelland said.
It was hard for Musson to predict how the job market would change in a global pandemic. He now sees people who can't travel spending on other things, which has increased work in manufacturing and assembly.
"It was slow to take off with the business people but when they started taking off, the orders started to rack up and suddenly there were no people."
Without migrant workers in New Zealand, people who used to do casual work were able to move into full-time work. People who were in full-time work but didn't like the management were able to move to other full-time work.
"People don't leave work because of the job. They leave it because of the boss," Musson said.
The Government has increased the minimum wage to $20 an hour, with an extra 8 per cent paid for casual work. Benefit rates have also risen.
"That doesn't help it one bit. We get people come in here, who are on a benefit, and get a job. They come back and say they don't want it, they don't like it."
In the Whanganui district there were 1707 people on the unemployment benefit in May, down from 1923 in January.
Whanganui & Partners business strategic lead Tim Easton confirmed that most of the city's labour intensive industries were in need of people.
It was a follow-on effect from restrictions on immigration, he said, and being in a Covid-19 growth period.
"We are just trying to manage that. The main thing that we as an economic development agency would want is for businesses to forward plan their staff needs."
Training took time, he said, and businesses should also be taking advantage of the Government schemes available.
Gloria Campbell, Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner for Taranaki, King Country and Whanganui, said the ministry was working with businesses that needed staff.
It can offer wage subsidies while people train on the job, and training packages for specific skills.
Its work brokers match people to jobs and then follow up to make sure they can stay. Its Whanganui Service Centre has a space where groups can host events, as happened on Wednesday, June 16.
Covid-19 had initiated change, and employers may need to do things differently, Campbell said.
Whanganui Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Glenda Brown said she didn't know of glaring gaps in the job market. But she said chamber members who were recruiting out of town people for permanent positions were busy.