Labour market confidence up in last three months

The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence index rose 1.8 points in the September quarter to 105.7, which is above levels seen prior to the pandemic.

A number above the baseline of 100 shows optimism in the job market outweighing pessimism.

The survey suggests that more people were bullish about their current job prospects, as employers continue to grapple with skill shortages.

This had been highlighted in a string of monthly reports from the job website Seek which show that new job listings continue to outpace applications.

"Even with the latest lockdown, employers are aware of the severe skill shortages that have developed in recent times and have remained in hiring mode," Westpac acting chief economist Michael Gordon said.

However, employees' perceptions on future wage growth and job security fell marginally over the three-month period.

"That's notable as the survey was held during a time of higher Covid alert levels," Gordon said.

"This indicates that workers remain optimistic about the outlook for economic conditions and the demand for labour."

The latest report supports our view that the unemployment rate will fall below 4 percent in the coming quarters, into what the Reserve Bank is likely to regard as 'unsustainably' low territory, Gordon said.

Across the regions employment confidence was mixed, with six out of 10 regions reporting a decline including Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast, Otago, Southland and Bay of Plenty.

Gordon said the fall may reflect the short-lived trans-Tasman travel bubble, with Australian tourists having been an important source of jobs in these regions before the latest lockdowns.

McDermott Miller market research director Imogen Rendall said confidence amongst employees working in the public sector had risen more than their counterparts in the private sector.

"Concerns over job security and a more cautious view of future earnings appear to be impacting confidence of those in the private sector, while those in the public sector see the current and future job market in a more positive light," she said.

Radio New Zealand, RNZ
September 24, 2021