For the first time in 10 years more people are leaving the country permanently than are arriving.
Recruitment firms and business groups say that's causing skills shortages.
In the year to the end of October, 84,300 people came to live permanently in New Zealand. In the same period, 84,400 left the country.
That's a sizeable turnaround from last year, when 12,000 more people arrived than departed.
Statistics New Zealand says more people have left than arrived in seven out of the eight months since the February earthquake. But it points out that October was the first month in which the annual immigration count turned negative.
The number of people leaving permanently for Australia is at a record high. Statistics NZ says 49,000 people crossed the Tasman in the year to the end of October.
The managing director of recruitment firm Hays, Jason Walker, says 60% of firms are now facing skills shortages as the economy picks up.
He says recruitment from overseas is one way to plug the gap, which exists mainly in engineering, finance and information technology.
But Mr Walker says Australia is sucking up workers from other countries as well.
He cites a jobs expo in Edinburgh last weekend where Australian firms were offering wages $30 an hour higher.
Mr Walker says this led to only a handful expressing an interest in working in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Christchurch continues to lose people, with 6000 leaving since the earthquake in February.