Regional labour market trends

This section looks at population trends, employment indicators, trends for rangatahi and youth not in education as well as employment and training trends.


Hawke’s Bay has a relatively stable resident population, growing between 1% and 3% each year since 2002. Internal migration plays a constant role in the available workforce in Hawke’s Bay. Hawke’s Bay had a significant increase in international migration in 2019-2020 with Horticulture and Viticulture visas making up much of the growth. The decline from 2020 onward can largely be attributed to the changing visa requirements for seasonal workers and the accreditation requirements for employers.

Population source of Hawke's Bay 1997 to 2022
Line graph of population sources in Hawkes bay from 1997 to 2022. Data shows population numbers from natural increase, net internal migration and net international migration.

Employment indicators

Hawke’s Bay’s unemployment has had a downward trend, similar to New Zealand as a whole for the past decade. The rise in unemployment from 2020 to 2021 can be attributed to COVID-19 and business confidence surrounding policy announcements.

Unemployment rates 2020 to 2022
Line graph of unemployment rates between 2020 and 2022.

Hawke’s Bay has both a high-level of highly skilled[1] jobs (31,717) and low-skilled (34,697) jobs filled in 2022. Of filled jobs in 2022, low-skilled roles are over-represented which highlights an opportunity for the region to have investment in relevant training needs for ākonga and kaimahi. The prevalent industries in Hawke’s Bay (Horticulture and Primary Manufacturing) have historically not relied on qualified kaimahi, however the RSLG is noticing a change in these sectors as they strive for efficiencies and industry growth.

Employment by broad skill level 2022
Bar graph showing 2022 employment by broad skill level for Hawke's Bay and New Zealand.

Hawke’s Bay had relatively similar levels of employment across all four districts in 2018. The Central Hawke’s Bay District and Hastings District had slightly higher full-time employment levels (50.4%, and 50.3% respectively), with Wairoa District having the lowest level at 41.9%. The unemployment rate was highest in Wairoa District at 7.2%, compared to 2.9% in Central Hawke’s Bay District.

Population by labour force status 2018
Bar graph showing 2018 population percentages by labour force status.

The levels of those not in the labour force is significant across the rohe, these people represent an interesting cohort as they are of working age however are not seeking employment. These people may be early retirees, students who are not actively seeking work, stay-at-home parents, anyone permanently unable to work, those who are voluntarily inactive (i.e., not wanting to work) and anyone currently in an institution (i.e., incarcerated). This cohort is of interest to the RSLG given the tight labour market experienced in the rohe.

As would be expected given the predominant industries in Hawke’s Bay, labourers make up a significant (15.1% or 13,480 people) portion of the regional workforce. This industry is third behind ‘Professionals’ and ‘Managers’, which are not unique to any one sector. Interestingly, Technicians and Trades workers as an occupation grew 5% between 2021 and 2022, followed by Professionals (4.1%) and Sales Workers (3%).

22,289 kaimahi are employed in knowledge intensive industries in the Hawke’s Bay. Knowledge intensive industries are those in which the generation and exploitation of knowledge play the predominant part in the creation of economic activity. The largest contributor towards this in the rohe is Hospitals, followed by Primary and Secondary Education.

Employment by industry 2022
Bar graph comparing employment by industry between Hawke's Bay and New Zealand in 2022.
Cargo ship in Napier Port, Hawke's Bay region.

Trends for Rangatahi

When it comes to our future workforce, rangatahi (youth) are the Hawke’s Bay RSLG’s immediate focus, specifically our school/kura leavers. With 28 secondary and composite schools/kura in the region, it is imperative that our rangatahi are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the future. 2021 achievement rates of Hawke’s Bay ākonga were around national averages [2], with approximately 54% of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 3 or above (compared to 55.8% nationally), and 78% achieving NCEA Level 2 (compared to 78.7% nationally). Although these levels are similar to national levels, the RSLG continues to hear that our rangatahi are not equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to make informed career choices after school/kura. Educational achievement varies between the districts, as demonstrated below.

Hawke’s Bay still has around 40%[3] of the school leavers cohort that do not go on to tertiary education/training in any given year. That means around 800-900 Hawke’s Bay secondary ākonga will leave school /kura each year and not go on to tertiary training. Developing education and training provision that works for this cohort needs to be a regional priority.

School leaver's highest attainment 2021
Bar graph showing percentage of school leavers graduating in 2021 with level 1, 2, 3 and university entrance qualifications divided by Hawke's Bay district.

Youth not in education, employment and training

Hawke’s Bay has high youth (15 to 24 years old) NEET (not in education, employment and training) rates.

The Hawke’s Bay NEET rate has remained above the national level since 2013. Despite a positive downward trend from 2019, youth NEET remains an area of concern for the Hawke’s Bay RSLG. In 2022 the NEET Rate for Hawke’s Bay was 12.5%, and nationally this rate was 11.7%.

Youth NEET rate 2013 to 2022
Line graph comparing percentage of youth not in education, employment or training rates in Hawke's Bay and New Zealand between 2013 to 2022.

While the regional NEET rate has been declining, the NEET rate in Wairoa District is significantly higher than the other districts at 22.1%. Wairoa’s remoteness from urban centres, fewer employment opportunities, lack of public transport and limited drivers licencing programmes are collective barriers to training and employment. Without the correct driver’s licence or use of a private vehicle, rangatahi are unable to access opportunities available to them.

NEET rates for 15 to 24 year olds, 2022
Bar graph showing 2022 percentage of youth between 15 and 24 not in education, employment and training in 6 Hawke's Bay districts and New Zealand.


[1] Highly skilled occupations typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification and include professionals such as accountants, teachers, and engineers, as well as most managers such as chief executives. This category is consistent with skill level one of the Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

Medium-high skilled occupations typically require an NZ Register Diploma, an Associate Degree or Advanced Diploma. The category includes some managers (such as retail managers) and technicians (such as architectural draftspersons, ICT support technicians and dental hygienists). This category is consistent with skill level two of the ANZSCO classification.

Medium skilled occupations typically require an NZ Register Level 4 qualification. The category includes tradespersons (such as motor mechanics), skilled service workers (such as firefighters), as well as skilled clerical and sales workers (such as legal secretaries and estate agents). This category is consistent with skill level three of the ANZSCO classification.

Low skilled occupations typically require an NZ Register Level 3 qualification or lower. It includes a range of lower skilled occupations from general clerks, caregivers, and sales assistants, through to cleaners and labourers. This category is consistent with skill level four and five of the ANZSCO classification.

[2] Hawke's Bay region summary (external link)(external link)— Education Counts

[3] Hawke's Bay region: progression to tertiary qualification level(external link)(external link) — Education Counts

Last updated: 24 July 2023