There are 327 few Whanganui people receiving a benefit than this time last year and Whanganui & Partners acting chief executive Jonathan Sykes says that shows people were supporting local businesses, moving to Whanganui and starting new businesses.
Last month, 5412 people were receiving welfare, down from 5739 in December 2020, according to Ministry of Social Development (MSD) figures.
At the same time the district's population has grown to 48,400.
In December 2016, 5196 working-age people were on benefits. The lowest number of people on benefits across the past five years was 4710, in June 2018.
MSD regional director Jan Rata said more people had taken on jobs in manufacturing, construction, hospitality, agriculture and retail, and that accords with what Sykes knows about the district's economy.
"Manufacturing, retail, construction and hospitality are all growth industries in Whanganui, so it is likely they would need increased labour," he said.
The district's unemployment rate was 5.6 per cent in 2020 - higher than the 4.1 per cent for New Zealand and 4.6 per cent for the Manawatū Region.
Last year's rate is due shortly, and given benefit numbers down and filled job numbers being up, Sykes expects an improvement.
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MSD specialist work brokers are using "frontline case management" to engage directly with jobseekers and employers to get benefit numbers down, Rata said.
They help people apply for jobs or sign up for training, and can sometimes pay course fees and offer employers wage subsidies.
"Many employers are keen to mentor and train young people into their industry, and the most common attributes they look for are motivation and a great attitude."
In New Zealand 21,300 people moved off benefits and into work during the past three months. It's more than in any previous year since electronic records began in 1996, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said.
Some moved off benefits they had been on for four years or more.
"We know that the longer you are on a benefit the harder it is finding employment, but by focusing on this group we are starting to make inroads," Sepuloni said.
The success shows New Zealand and its labour market are more resilient than some have thought, she said.