Prospect of worker shortage for rebuild

Posted 25 Aug 2011 by MediaStuff Popular
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Economists are questioning whether Canterbury can attract enough new workers to tackle the earthquake rebuild - after a significant jump in the number of new jobs being advertised.

Online-based job advertisement site SEEK says that Canterbury is at the front of regional job advert growth in the period from January to June, despite a sharp fall in new jobs advertised straight after the February 22 earthquake.

"Job ads across the country are up and it is particularly good to see Canterbury forging ahead in terms of growth, with 34 per cent more jobs advertised in July than in January this year," SEEK general manager Janet Faulding said.

That compared to 21 per cent ad growth nationally.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the SEEK figures matched the trend seen in the recent "ANZ NZ job ads" series release. This showed Canterbury was leading the charge for newspaper vacancies.

In the past three or four months more jobs had been advertised in Canterbury than in Auckland and Wellington combined, Bagrie said.

The Canterbury rebuild appeared to have stalled for the moment, but by the middle of 2012 there would be a shortage of people to help the process. "I seriously think Christchurch is going to be massively short of available talent and people," Bagrie said.

"I put big question marks about where the resources are going to come from for the rebuild."

There was a possibility some people would return from across the Tasman, with parts of the Australian economy in the doldrums, and if the Government simplified immigration rules people could move from Ireland and the United Kingdom.

SEEK said for Canterbury, July was the strongest month, with more than 2500 new job opportunities advertised in the Garden City.

On average, there were 2200 jobs advertised in the Canterbury region each month from January through to July 2011, with those numbers rising significantly in the past three months, SEEK trade marketing manager Sarah Sheridan said. It was not known how many jobs were filled each month.

Canterbury's biggest areas of opportunity were in the construction, trade, information and communication technology, and engineering sectors. There were around 146 construction jobs advertised in July, up 76 per cent on January numbers, Sheridan said.

Canterbury Employment and Skills Board chairman Carl Davidson said the SEEK figures were no surprise. In the short term there should be enough labour available in the region to fill new positions, but the board did not want organisations to poach staff from each other.

In the longer term, the board was also working on making Christchurch an attractive proposition so people and the city would prosper.

Davidson has previously said that up to 30,000 extra workers will be needed for the $30 billion Canterbury earthquake rebuild in the next five to 10 years.

"All we know is there's going to be significant demand and we need to be preparing for that demand now, getting people into training."

UBS New Zealand senior economist Robin Clements agreed there were indications of high job ads in Christchurch.

Firms were indicating they wanted to increase their payrolls. But it remained to be seen whether people would come to the city to fill those jobs.

"This might be the opportunity for a number of ex- Cantabrians to come back, whether it be from around New Zealand or offshore."


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