23 Nov 2022

New data confirms need for businesses to cope with 'leaner workforces'

2:29 pm on 23 November 2022
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Job ads trebled in Queenstown Lakes in the space of a year but there are fears many will not be filled during the peak summer tourism season. Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

A snapshot of Queenstown's labour market is pointing towards a challenging summer ahead for employers.

The latest quarterly report for the Queenstown Lakes showed a 330 percent increase in local job ads on JobFix from September 2021 to September 2022, despite a small 3.6 percent overall increase in filled jobs over the past year.

Worker availability for those on employer assisted visas was down by nearly 37 percent and more than halved for registered job-seekers during the same period.

The filled jobs growth was mostly in construction which had increased by 582, followed by 304 professional services positions, 211 jobs with recreational services, 191 in manufacturing and 190 with health.

The overall increase in filled jobs masked a 1043 drop in accommodation and hospitality jobs between September 2022 and September 2019.

Report author Benje Patterson said labour market shortages were enduring and looked like they would become worse during summer.

"The hospitality and accommodation sector alone would need to expand its headcount by 1500 workers just to return to its pre-Covid summer level," he said.

"Businesses would be wise, wherever possible, to invest in systems and technological solutions to help them be able to maintain their yield with a leaner workforce."

The Queenstown Lakes District Council commissioned the labour market snapshot.

Its economic development manager Peter Harris said it showcased the scale of the workforce challenges and a growing need for change and more resilience.

"While it's encouraging to see early signs of diversification in job growth outside of the hospitality industry, there's a long way to go," Harris said.

"Businesses are losing income from not being able to offer their normal levels of service, and visitors have less choice about what they can do here.

"By adding data to the issue the QLDC [Queenstown Lakes District Council] economic development team hopes it helps business and government leaders understand the scale of the challenge and prompts decisions that help relieve the pressure."

Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce head of business growth Sharon Fifield said it was a hard reality for business owners and there was no quick fix in sight.

"Many businesses are having to close their doors one or two days a week just to give their staff a break which is really tough.

"To add to their worries, attracting more staff is proving difficult due to a lack of available housing. It's great to see so many businesses providing worker accommodation, but there is still quite a gap in supply," Fifield said.

"Innovation is going to be really important for businesses in order to operate with continuing low labour supply."

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