Regional labour market trends


Manawatū-Whanganui holds a relatively stable resident population, afforded by a large agricultural base and a relatively large public administration sector (Defence), with ebbs and flows of growth and decline between -0.3% and 1.6% over the last 2 decades.

The many benefits of living in Manawatū-Whanganui include:

  • affordable housing relative to other regions
  • minimal traffic
  • rich cultural heritage
  • quality education
  • varied career options.

These culminate in a steady stream of individuals and whānau calling Manawatū-Whanganui home.

International migration plays a steady role in the available workforce in Manawatū-Whanganui, particularly when it comes to meeting high-skilled, niche roles. For example, in 2019 and 2020, the region saw a large increase in international migrants (1,100) which corresponds to a general increase in all visa types granted from 2019 to 2020.

Population source of Manawatu Whanganui

Population source of Manawatu-Whanganui, 1997 to 2022

Employment indicators

Manawatū-Whanganui’s unemployment rate currently sits below the national average at 3.2% (compared to 3.4%), breaking a decade-long trend (2009 to 2020) of remaining slightly higher than the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Unemployment rate in Manawatu Whanganui from 2002 to 2022

Unemployment rate in Manawatū-Whanganui from 2002 to 2022

Manawatū-Whanganui has both a high level of ‘highly-skilled’ (47,540) and ‘low-skilled’ (44,137) jobs filled in 2022. While the percentage of these roles, 38% and 35.4% of total jobs, is reflective of the national average, what is concerning is the low level of ‘skilled’ roles compared to the other broad skill level classifications. Ideally, we would want to see the greatest percentage of roles trending towards the higher skill areas. This would show available training pathways are being utilised across the rohe.   

The 2022 data indicates a significant broad skill gap exists for kaimahi and employers to contend with. In positive contrast to this is the growth of knowledge intensive employment (those in which the generation and exploitation of knowledge play the predominant part in the creation of economic activity). These sectors represent an increasing share of Aotearoa New Zealand economy’s output and employment and may be a source of future productivity growth. Manawatū-Whanganui currently has 27% of the working population employed in knowledge intensive employment, compared to 30% nationally.

Trends for Rangatahi

When it comes to our future workforce, rangatahi are our immediate focus. With 33 secondary and composite schools/kura in the rohe it is imperative that our rangatahi are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the future.

Achievement rates in Manawatū-Whanganui are below national averages, with only 48.7% of school leavers achieving NCEA Level 3 or above (compared to 55.8% nationally), and only 85.1% achieve NCEA Level 1 (compared to 87.3% nationally).

Furthermore, Manawatū-Whanganui is also below national levels for the percentage of school leavers enrolled in tertiary education options within 1 year of leaving school/kura (56.8% versus 64.8%). Educational achievement varies significantly between the 7 districts, as demonstrated below.

Manawatu Whanganui School leavers highest qualification attainment by district in 2021

Manawatū-Whanganui School leavers highest qualification attainment by district in 2021

Nearly half of Manawatū-Whanganui’s school leaver cohort do not go on to tertiary education/training in any given year. This translates into approximately 1,400 Manawatū-Whanganui ākonga leaving school each year and not going on to tertiary training.

Developing education and training provision that works for this cohort needs to be a regional priority. While not all training needs to be at a tertiary level, training that can staircase ākonga to this level is in demand in Manawatū-Whanganui.

Last updated: 22 June 2023