Employment and Skills

Total employment increases strongly, but pattern of change is mixed

Wednesday May 04, 2016 Mark Cox

Compared to the same quarter a year earlier, total employment in New Zealand in the March 2016 quarter was 48,100, or 2.0% higher. However, the pattern of change, according to industry and occupation, was very mixed1.


Focusing on the different industry groups, employment growth was greatest in Building and Construction, where 17,600 jobs were added over the past four quarters. Until recently, employment growth in this industry was largely accounted for by the Canterbury re-build, but the level of activity has now peaked, and most of the employment growth in the industry is now happening in Auckland.


Employment in the Professional and Administrative Services increased by 17,500 over the same period, and this reflects the ongoing upskilling and professionalisation of the economy. More surprisingly, given the hardship being faced by the dairy sector, employment in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing increased by 14,000.


Employment in both the Education and Health industries increased, and this will have been driven to a large extent by the growth in the country’s population, which is currently running at a rate of around 2.0% per annum.


At the other end of the scale, employment in Manufacturing fell by 12,000 even though other statistics indicate that activity levels in the sector have held up reasonably well.


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Reflecting the earlier comment about the professionalisation of the economy, employment growth in the past year was strongest in the Professionals group. This group is very diverse, but it includes lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, teachers, and many other roles that require graduate and post-graduate qualifications.


There was also significant employment growth in the other two occupational groups that are classified as highly skilled: Managers and Technicians and Trade Workers. 1 Employment data on industries and occupations is not seasonally adjusted, so it makes sense to look at year-on-year, rather than quarter-on-quarter changes.


On the other hand, employment in the combined intermediate and lower skilled occupations fell by a total of 10,300. Reflecting the automation of many intermediate and lower skilled jobs, employment of Clerical and Admin and Sales workers fell by a total of 14,900.


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