26 Sep 2016

Worker confidence jumps

3:20 pm on 26 September 2016

Workers are more optimistic about the job market, buoyed by a faster growing economy.

The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index jumped 8.5 points to 110.1 in the three months to September, reaching its highest level in two years.

A reading over 100 means optimists outnumber pessimists.

A senior economist at Westpac, Anne Boniface, said the improvement in employment confidence had been broad-based, with most workers upbeat about the current state of activity in the labour market, and their future prospects.

"It's consistent with a range of other indicators that we've seen with the labour market over the last six months or so. Economic growth has been pretty solid over the first half of this year and it looks like it's going to continue that way into the second half of 2016."

Job vacancies had picked up, and firms reported they were finding it increasingly difficult to hire skilled and unskilled workers.

Unemployment had fallen to 5.1 percent

But the survey indicated workers were less upbeat that a stronger employment market would translate into higher wages.

"If there was a soft spot in this survey it was about expectations of wage growth over the coming year. Workers are still pretty circumspect about the prospect of higher wages," Ms Boniface said.

"And that's probably reflecting the weak inflation environment that we're sitting in at the moment as well as strong growth in the labour force."

Ms Boniface said subdued wage pressures was one reason why the Reserve Bank was likely to cut interest rates again in November.

"However, with signs that net migration may be nearing a cyclical peak, inflation projected to pick up next year, and the labour market continuing to tighten, it seems it will only be a matter of time before workers become more optimistic about their future earnings prospects."

Employment confidence rose across all regions, except Bay of Plenty.

Canterbury was the most optimistic, while the region with the lowest employment confidence was Gisborne/Hawke's Bay, where respondents remained pessimistic about the jobs market.

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