Capital workers do the hard yards

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2014

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Wellington workers on average are more productive and have a higher standard of living than those in other centres.

But there is also higher unemployment and buying a house is not as affordable, according to a new report.

Economics research firm Infometrics' Annual Economic Profile of Wellington City found that productivity had increased in the city to the year ending March 2013 by 2.6 per cent - the same as the national average - to $19.9 billion.

Each Wellington employee contributed on average just over $118,000 to gdp, well ahead of the national average which sits at a little over $91,000.

The increased productivity by Wellington's workforce took the city to 29.2 per cent higher than the national level.

The Wellington City Council-commissioned report also found the city's workers are a wealthy lot. The median annual income was $65,370 in the year to March 2012. The national median was just $50,110.

But the findings weren't all rosy. The report found the average median house price of $478,200 was $121,000 more expensive than the national median. When the ratio of the median house price is measured against the annual average earnings, it made Wellington's houses less affordable than the national average.

The city had 25,163 business units in 2013, down 0.2 per cent on the previous year. The growth, or otherwise, in the number of business units is "an indicator of entrepreneurial activity" and whether they "are prepared to take risks to start new ventures," the report said.

Over the past 10 years, business unit growth averaged 1.9 per cent annually.

Wellington's population grew by 1800 (0.9 per cent) to the year ending June 2013 to 204,000, or 4.6 per cent of the national population. Natural increase in the population accounted for 1600 new residents. The remaining 200 came from net migration.

But they faced a Wellington unemployment rate of 7.5 per cent in March 2013. The national average was 6.8 per cent.

Professional, scientific and technical services made the largest contribution to employment growth in Wellington City between 2012 and 2013 with the industry adding 968 jobs. The next largest contributor was public administration and safety (689 jobs) followed by financial and insurance services (299 jobs).

Council's economic spokeswoman Jo Coughlan said the results show the economic strategy set by the council in 2011 was already bearing fruit. "The strategy is focused on creating a business environment where innovative, creative and knowledge-intensive firms can flourish."

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She said attracting talent to Wellington "through the Destination Wellington programme and protecting and enhancing the central city's role as the economic engine room of the region leads to economic growth."

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the survey showed the council's "Smart Vision" was working.

"We're continuing to attract talent, enable high quality jobs and diversify the economy."

Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley said the council's economic strategy was focused on creating an innovative environment for business and as such played a part in improving economic profile.

"Other factors also play a part such as ongoing work by the Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce and organisations such as Grow Wellington, the inventiveness of event organisers, and the strong and improving national economy.

"Together they contribute to an improving local economy."

She said the Infometrics report confirmed the city is "on the way back" from the doldrum years.

"[Our] recent business confidence survey, and a later one by the NZ Institute of Economic Research, showed that businesses are the most optimistic they've been for 20 years.

"This is an ideal time to ensure the city's leaders are working alongside the business community, and with up-to-date economic analysis, to present robust business cases for major city projects, as well as making sure the barriers and costs to doing business are being tackled," Bleakley said.

The Wellington City Annual Economic Profile is the first report produced to provide annual economic information for Wellington city when compared with the previous year. Earlier reports provided information at a Wellington regional level. The profile would be repeated annually.

- Fairfax Media

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