'Surprisingly strong' jobs boost show momentum left in economy - Infometrics

New data shows a boost in jobs last month, meaning there is still some momentum in the economy, analysis from Infometrics says. 

Statistics New Zealand's monthly employment indicators showed filled jobs rose 0.8 percent when seasonally adjusted for January 2023 - the strongest monthly result since December 2020. While total filled jobs in January 2023 was two percent higher than the same month last year.

Goods-producing industries were up 0.9 percent (3975 jobs), service industries were up 0.7 percent (12,832 jobs) and primary industries were up 0.2 percent (205 jobs). It was the first time primary sector jobs rose in seven months. 

Earnings per filled job also grew 6.7 percent on average over the last 12 months.  

"The surprisingly strong increase in filled jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis indicates there is still, somehow, even more momentum left in the economy," Infometrics said in a statement. 

"Annual growth in both the goods-producing and service industries was also considerably stronger than in December."

Filled jobs, monthly, seasonally adjusted.
Filled jobs, monthly, seasonally adjusted. Photo credit: Supplied

Climbing tourism arrival numbers added to the demand for workers in the tourism sector, Informatics said, with an additional 7200 jobs in accommodation and food services compared to January 2022. 

"This figure was the largest annual increase in the number of filled jobs across all industries that we track," Infometrics said.

The economic consultancy said changes to the Working Holiday Visa scheme could have provided for spare capacity.

Informetrics said job ads continue to ease, down six percent from December 2022, but are eight percent higher than before the pandemic hit in January 2020. 

"Although overall demand for workers remains elevated, the continued fall in jobs ads over the last eight months indicates that businesses are cautious to hire new employees in the face of an impending economic downturn," Infometrics said.

However, it said while the economic impact of Cyclone Gabrielle is still difficult to determine, worker demand will likely strengthen due to the huge rebuild ahead.

Infometrics said in the short term, the introduction of a new Recovery Visa to support pathways for engineers, technicians, and insurance assessors to help the recovery could support increased levels of employment in professional services, construction, and utility services.