Hiring outlook eases despite positive economy

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 08:17 15/01/2014

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Although many are predicting a stellar economic year, one employer survey has shown a drop in companies expecting to hire new employees.

Hiring expectations dipped slightly for the first three months of 2014, down 2.9 per cent from the previous quarter's five-year high, according to the latest Hudson employment trends report, issued today.

The drop comes despite economic indicators showing strengthening business confidence and recent Trade Me job listings rising 17 per cent for the final quarter of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012.

Just over 60 per cent of the 1,000 employers surveyed said they intend to keep staffing levels steady this quarter.

That is up from 63 per cent who said the same in the December quarter's survey and accounts for the slight reduction in hiring intentions, which remain relatively stable at 30.8 per cent which the recruitment firm said shows the market continues to be cautious.

Roman Rogers, executive general manager of Hudson New Zealand said employers are paying close attention to the economic conditions across the Tasman.

"Although indicators suggest another year of continued economic growth, employers are cautious and remain hesitant to commit to new headcount, particularly with an eye to the performance of the Australian economy," said Rogers.

"The employment market remains tight, so employers' ability to find the people and skill sets they need, and take advantage of the more confident economic conditions will be critical to getting ahead in the next 12 months."

The multi-billion dollar Canterbury rebuild continues to sway economic data and Hudson said it was the main factor in the South Island companies having the most positive hiring intentions, with 49 per cent.

Nationwide, the construction/property/engineering sector remains the industry with the highest hiring intentions, at 58 per cent, underpinned by the rebuild as well as strong demand for new housing in Auckland.

Strong manufacturing activity in Auckland was driving hiring intentions up 1.4 percentage points to 28.2 per cent in upper North Island.

Intention to increase headcount in the lower North Island dropped 8.7 percentage points to 24.8 per cent.

Hudson said this reflected the Government's financial restraint and self-imposed cap on the public sector labour force in Wellington.

Meanwhile the more positive industries following construction and engineering include IT (47.9 per cent) and manufacturing (43.6 per cent)

Rogers said the IT sector continues to be a standout.

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"Throughout the IT sector, many organisations are approaching the time where investment in upgrades or new platforms is a requirement rather than an option, and there is a growing focus on digital."

Rogers said the labour market demand would fluctuate and the challenge for employers in 2014 would be to force a step-change from a productivity focus to an expansionary one, where new staff were needed.

- Fairfax Media

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