Employment confidence rises in March quarter despite Feb quake, but positive outlook for future hiring falls, survey shows

Employment confidence rises in March quarter despite Feb quake, but positive outlook for future hiring falls, survey shows

Employee and jobseeker employment confidence rose in the March quarter from December, although there are still more pessimists than optimists when it comes to current hiring conditions, the latest Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence survey shows.

The survey's headline index rose from 103.5 in December to 105 in March, with an index score over 100 indicating more optimists than pessimists.

Underlying the headline figure, the survey's Current Conditions Index rose from 79 to 85.3, suggesting fewer pessimists than before, although they still outnumber optimists. Another underlying factor, the Employment Expectations Index, fell from 119.8 to 118.1.

Westpac Senior Economist Dominick Stephens said there was no discernible "earthquake effect" on employment confidence in March. 

“Employment expectations fell, but not nearly as much as households’ economic outlook in last week’s Westpac McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence survey," Stephens said.

"Respondents clearly see the February Christchurch earthquake as a significant risk to the broader economic outlook, rather than their personal circumstances. It remains to be seen how consumer spending responds to that weaker outlook,” he said.

“In fact, respondents’ perceptions of current labour market conditions are less downbeat than in December, consistent with other signs of a reviving economy in early 2011.”

“Employees’ assessment of employment conditions had deteriorated in the second half of 2010, following the soft patch that the economy entered mid-year. This employment survey shows that deterioration largely unwinding. At current levels, the survey points to a modest improvement in the labour market later this year,” Stephens said.

The survey was carried out between March 1-13. Out of respect for the situation of Christchurch residents following the earthquake of 22 February, 2011, those respondents were not interviewed for the March survey; instead, additional respondents from the rest of Canterbury were interviewed, Westpac said.

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