Almost 18,000 fewer Canterbury people are employed than a year ago, while the number of unemployed has risen to 21,500, new figures show.
Women have been hardest hit by the loss of jobs after the February 2011 earthquake.
The quake shut down hospitality and retail jobs in the central city and reduced the number of jobs in education, healthcare and social assistance, the official Household Labour Force Survey for the June quarter 2012 says.
In June last year, 324,600 people were employed in Canterbury compared with 306,700 at the end of June this year, it says.
The unemployment rate in Canterbury has risen to 6.5 per cent at the end of June, with 21,500 people unemployed.
That is a rise on 18,800 unemployed at the end of March and an unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent.
Economists warn about taking the regional data too literally because it is volatile and not seasonally adjusted.
Statistics New Zealand, which undertakes the survey from 15,000 households nationwide, also warns that care should be taken when comparing data from a year ago in Canterbury.
Westpac economists said there was no corroborating evidence to support a mass exodus from Canterbury, and the region's figures show the working-age population continues to fall.
The drop in female employment in Canterbury over the year was 10.3 per cent; that is, 15,800 fewer women employed than in June last year.
The fall in jobs came in education and training, healthcare and social help, where most jobs were held by women.
Jobs increased in the transport, postal, and warehousing industries in Canterbury, as they did nationally.
ASB economist Jane Turner said the bank had been expecting employment to rise in Canterbury because of the rise in building consents and use of cement for building.
''Nevertheless, we will be watching retail and construction data over the next month for indications of whether the rebuild is still picking up momentum or temporarily stalled,'' she said.
Employment elsewhere in the country was slightly stronger than expected, up 0.8 per cent from March.