Employment confidence dips

Last updated 13:30 30/09/2013

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Employees and jobseekers are feeling the pinch after employment confidence fell for the first time this year.

The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index fell to 102.8 in the September 2013 quarter, down from 104.2 in the June quarter.

"That's still the second-highest reading in the last two years," Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens said.

"But it underscores the slow and halting pace of improvement in the jobs market since the recession ended."

There was a sense the improvement was of more benefit to those already in work than those seeking it, he said.

"Wage growth and job security have seen the biggest lifts from their post-recession lows, but job opportunities are still perceived as slim," Stephens said.

"Households' perceptions of job opportunities fell, partly reversing their sharp gains in the June 2013 quarter.

"Perceptions of current job opportunities fell from a net -48.6 per cent to -51.9 per cent, while expectations for job opportunities a year from now fell from -0.2 per cent to -5.8 per cent."

For those in work, the report showed the net percentage of workers reporting higher earnings rose for the fifth quarter in a row, and was the highest since December 2011.

However this trend is yet to borne out in the official figures, with the Labour Cost Index showing a slowdown in wage inflation over the last year, as actual and expected inflation have declined.

"Recent business surveys have shown a lift in hiring intentions," Stephens said.

"However, this survey suggests that workers are not seeing those intentions translate into action just yet."

Canterbury reclaimed the top spot as the most confident region, while Wellington as the most pessimistic, scoring particularly low for job security and past earnings growth.

Northland, up 9.2 points, and Southland, up 7.6 points, enjoyed the largest upswing in employment confidence from the June quarter, while the Wellington workforce was down 3.8 points.

Westpac economist Michael Gordon said Southland's gain was attributable in part to the recent rescue deal for the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, while Wellington remained downbeat due to fiscal constraint.

The survey was conducted from September 1-11, with a sample size of 1571. An index number over 100 indicates that optimists outnumber pessimists. The margin of error is 2.5 per cent.

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- Fairfax Media

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