The labour market environment

Since our 2022 RWP was developed, there has been an improvement in the region’s labour market.

Overall the Te Tai o Poutini West Coast economy is performing well with GDP up 6.9% (March 2022) from the previous year. Visitor spend has contributed to this performance, up to $22.6 million in March 2023, compared to $11.5 million in March 2022. This compares to $20.4 million prior to Covid in March 2019[1].

In the year to March 2023 employment increased to just over 15,000, with over 370 new jobs created in the region. This growth surpasses pre-pandemic levels, with nearly 280 more jobs than in March 2020.[2] The industries that created the most jobs in 2022 were rail freight transport, hospitals and residential building construction, we expect this to be similar for 2023.

The region is still however facing widespread skills and labour shortages, particularly in more highly skilled roles and senior roles that require experience. This is seen across a number of our priority sectors including education, and health care and social assistance. 

The regional unemployment rate is currently 5.7%[3], down 0.8% from last year. The proportion of people who indicate that they would like to do more paid work is 12.4%, also down, indicating more people are finding additional work. Although New Zealand’s borders have reopened and there is a return of international workers to New Zealand, migration into the region remains low. Regional workforce demand forecasts significant gaps across the region, with considerable pressure across multiple industries.

Of the 335 West Coast school leavers in 2021, just over a quarter (27%) had their first enrolment in further study in our region. That includes those who enrolled at Te Pūkenga | Tai Poutini Polytechnic, West Coast Industry Training Organisations, and extramural enrolments.

Other activities and programmes underway that will benefit our labour market

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Employment Strategy (2019) has been refreshed and all 7 Employment Action Plans have now been released. Together they are delivering a suite of actions to support improved labour market outcomes for key population groups. 

The 6 Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) have each released operational/workforce development plans and in early May 2023 provided investment advice to TEC for the 2024 funding year. The WDCs focus this year is on increasing industry engagement and reviewing and developing qualifications to help shape the vocational education curriculum.

Industry Transformation Plans are being created in partnership between business, workers, Māori, and Government. The purpose of the plans is to grow and transform sectors of the economy with significant potential to contribute to a high productivity, high wage, low emissions economy. 6 of the 8 industry plans have now been developed including Agritech, Construction, Forestry and Wood Processing, Advanced Manufacturing, Food and Beverage, and Fisheries.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Employment Strategy

The 6 Workforce Development Councils(external link) — Ohu Mahi

Industry Transformation Plans

[1] Development West Coast – MarketView data 2023

[2] Statistics NZ Infoshare – Region by Variable

[3] Statistics NZ Household Labour Force Survey March 2023