Job candidates hold bargaining power as employers turn to sign-on bonuses as incentives in tight labour market - SEEK

Employers are turning to new incentives and added benefits to attract candidates at a time when New Zealand's unemployment rate sits near a record low.

SEEK's end-of-year review found record-level job advertisements and low applications per ad have resulted in an extremely tight labour market where candidates hold more bargaining power.

New Zealand's latest unemployment rate is 3.3 percent in the September 2022 quarter, according to Statistics New Zealand, and has remained constantly low all year.

"Candidates have been in the driver's seat all year, employers have been pulling new levers to try to attract applications," Seek New Zealand's country manager Rob Clark said in a statement.

The report found sign-on bonuses became more commonly used with 349 percent more references to 'sign-on bonuses' in 2022 compared to the previous year.

There was also an increase in job advertisements promoting flexible work options with the number of roles mentioning "work from home" in the job description increasing from approximately 160 mentions each month in 2019 to 12 times as many in 2022.

The job market is easing after record-level job ad volumes in May, SEEK found.

Job ad levels reached record levels in the first half of the year, culminating in over 38,000 ads on site in May.

While ads have slightly decreased since then, they remain incredibly high compared to pre-pandemic levels, making for a very tight market, prolonged over many months, Clark said.

However, it's not all bad news for employers.

Despite the peaks and troughs of ads and applications per job ad during the year, interest from applicants has been on the rise with visitation to the SEEK website high year on year, particularly so over the past six months, the report said.

Applications per job ad hit a historical low in January but have steadily risen each month since, returning to 2018-average levels by November. 

"The proximity to Christmas has led to job ad numbers dropping nationally month-on-month," Clark said. 

"Despite the drop, job ad volumes in all regions and most industries remain high in comparison to pre-pandemic."