Improving business confidence in Rotorua could bring relief to struggling job seekers, the local Chamber of Commerce says.



Chief executive Roger Gordon said that while the employment market in Rotorua was not buoyant, "there appears to be a higher level of business confidence returning".



"We hope that is reflected in the employment market."



His comments follow the latest Statistics New Zealand Household Labour Force Survey, which showed unemployment in the Bay of Plenty region declined in the three months to March.

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During this period, the jobless rate stood at 8 per cent, down from 8.6 per cent in the previous quarter and 8.5 per cent a year ago.



About 9500 Bay of Plenty residents were out of work during that time, the report estimated.



Reliable figures specific to Rotorua were unavailable.



Mr Gordon said the decline for the wider Bay area was encouraging. Despite this, "the market for first job seekers and those with undeveloped skill levels continues to be a challenge", in Rotorua.



"Most of the job vacancy sites such as Seek and Trade Me reflect that the demand for skilled staff in Rotorua continues to grow," he said. A breakdown of the labour force figures shows that while employment and unemployment rates improved in the wider Bay region, the total number of workers reduced.



Of the 119,500 Bay of Plenty residents aged 15 and over eligible for work, 110,000 were employed.



In the three months to December, the Bay of Plenty labour force stood at 120,800, with 110,400 people in jobs.



Meanwhile, figures from the Social Development Ministry show the number of Rotorua dole recipients edged higher in the last year. In March, 1589 residents were receiving the unemployment benefit, up from 1544 a year earlier.

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Nationally, unemployment fell to a three-year low for the first quarter of this year - with 38,000 more people in jobs compared with the previous period.



The jobless rate was 6.2 per cent, down from a revised 6.8 per cent in the December quarter, and 6.7 per cent a year ago.



Despite this, 148,000 New Zealanders were still out-of-work in the three months to March.


BY THE NUMBERS


  • First three months of 2013:

  • 8 per cent unemployment rate in the Bay of Plenty.

  • 9500 Bay of Plenty residents unemployed.

  • 119,500 residents aged 15 and over eligible for work - 110,000 employed.