By Brenda Harwood
The number of New Zealanders accessing benefits during the September 2020 quarter is showing a marked increase on last year, but Dunedin and the Southern region appear to be bucking the trend - at least for the moment.
The Ministry of Social Development's benefit fact sheets snapshot for the September 2020 quarter reveals a 23 percent increase in the number of Kiwis accessing benefits.
This brings the proportion of the country's working-age population receiving benefits to 11.8 percent, although the Southern region is on a more positive 5 percent.
In Dunedin City there were 9052 people receiving support.
Dunedin-based Ministry of Social Development Southern regional labour market manager Emma Hamilton said the figures were partly seasonal, with the freezing works and horticulture sectors about to ramp up.
"We have also had people coming back from overseas due to Covid-19, and it might take them a while to find something job-wise," Hamilton said.
"We have also seen some redundancies [due to Covid-19], but not as many as expected - things are definitely better than the original forecast."
There were pockets of displacements in the Southern retail sector, tourism, hospitality, aviation, and some manufacturing.
"On the other hand, the domestic tourism market has taken off, and the horticulture-viticulture sector is looking for 5000 to 7000 workers," Hamilton said.
"The Southern region is looking very interesting at the moment."
It was pleasing to see that the Southern region was showing a lower increase in jobseeker support benefits than the rest of the country.
"I think we are partly shielded by our primary industries."
Platinum Recruitment relationship manager Dean Delaney said working in the recruitment sector, it was evident that job applications were "through the roof" at present.
"We are definitely seeing people who have been let go because of Covid-19, in certain sectors - such as travel and hospitality.
"But now domestic tourism is up, and a lot of cafes are picking up again."
The effects of previous global financial shocks, in the 1980s and 2008, had taken time to filter through to New Zealand, and it remained to be seen how the international impact of Covid-19 would affect this country.
"People keep saying they want 2020 to be over, but I don't think we have seen the worst of it," Delaney said.
"2021 will be a very tough year."
Hamilton said between the major infrastructure work planned for Dunedin, including the Dunedin Hospital rebuild, and the city's large and growing information technology sector, there were "huge opportunities" here.
"We have a lot of activity that will drive growth sooner than in other regions."
"We have companies that are doing work on a global scale that are based here in Dunedin and that's good for the city," she said.
This story first appeared in the Otago Daily Times