Firms' hiring intentions have edged up, as small businesses in particular become more confident about their prospects.
The Hudson Employment Expectations Report surveyed more than 1000 businesses, and found a net 22.5% plan to increase their workforce before the end of the year - up half a percentage point from the previous quarter.
Executive general manager Roman Rogers says firms are cautiously optimistic about their prospects, but are playing it safe until Christmas.
He says the South Island continues to be a key driver behind hiring intentions as organisations to bring talent together for the rebuilding of Canterbury, however there's been a slight shift in intention towards contracting as opposed to hiring permanent staff.
Mr Rogers says employment intentions have still not returned to pre-crisis levels though have increased 3% compared with the same period a year ago.
Sentiment among small business is particularly buoyant with nearly a third intending to increase staffing levels, though Mr Rogers cautions that it is too early to say whether this indicates an economic rebuild.
The construction, engineering, property and information technology sectors continue to have the most positive hiring intentions, while sentiment in the manufacturing, financial services, and education sectors has slipped in the last quarter.