Recently we saw the release of quarterly economic data, with the Bay of Plenty a stellar performer compared to nearly all other regions in Aotearoa for the March quarter. Our economy is in better shape than most on almost all measures; notably employment, consumer spending and economic growth.
The strength of our economy has quickly led us to concentrate on what the future looks like, in particular where we get talent from for businesses that are growing. Unemployment has dropped quickly to pre-Covid levels, demand for staff has grown and most businesses are now struggling to find enough people to match their growth aspirations. We are seeing this across a range of businesses; from accountants and lawyers to tech companies to aged care.
Interestingly, although we have a very strong job market in the Western Bay we still have relatively high number of people on benefits, so room still exists to get people into the workforce. While Covid has made it difficult for younger people in particular, the situation is not solely related to the pandemic, the number of people on the job seeker benefit was increasing in the year before Covid hit us. There is a disconnect between a job market that needs more people, and people that are unable to get a job.
Lack of work to address this disconnect is why I was a little disappointed with the budget released by the government last week. The need to improve inequality via raising benefits is understandable, but matching investment to getting people into work is essential, and measures for this are weak. This will be particularly important for our country over the next few years with a likely drift of staff across the Tasman and our normal pipeline of immigration turned off. Alongside maximising our workforce, significant investment in New Zealand’s future competitiveness via science, research and technology will help that workforce to earn more over time, not a priority for the moment it would seem.
I would expect that Bay to continue this strong recovery over the next year. A strong workforce, across all vocations, enabling businesses to grow should be at the top of our minds as we look to the future.