Cantabrians had the most confidence in their employment prospects in the December quarter as a survey showed a modest rise in optimism nationwide.
The Westpac McDermott Miller employment confidence index rose to 103.4 in the three months to December, up from 102.8 in the previous quarter.
A number of more than 100 indicates optimism, while below 100 indicates pessimism.
Although the figure rose slightly, the index remains well below its levels of more than 130 in 2007.
Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon said some of the caution on labour market conditions was due to those already in work.
"Low inflation tends to be followed by low wage growth," he said.
"While inflation is now starting to track higher, the fact that it fell to a 14-year low during 2013 is still likely to have reflected on recent pay negotiations and could continue to do so into the near future."
By region, Canterbury was the most positive, with an index figure of 115, reflecting demand for labour in the post-earthquake rebuild.
Bay of Plenty was the next most confident region on 110, up 10 points from the previous quarter.
Gordon said signs that the kiwifruit industry was finding ways to combat the PSA vine disease could be a factor.
The least confident region in the survey was Gisborne-Hawke's Bay on 94.5.
The rise in confidence was concentrated in the middle-income groups ($30,000 to $70,000 a year), while it softened for those on low and high incomes.
Confidence rose the most for those aged 30 to 50, while it fell across the board for the under-30s.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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