Job market & key industries

Is it a good time to be looking for jobs in New Zealand? Definitely - especially if you have the right skills.

Our job market has been strong over recent years, driven by solid economic growth of around 3% annually. Reflecting that, unemployment hit a 10 year low in 2018.

While growth in both the economy and jobs is forecast to slow a little after 2021, the government still expects the workforce will grow at 1.8% annually - meaning New Zealand will continue to need about 47,000 more workers a year into the near future.

The majority of these jobs will be in highly skilled occupations, and it’s expected most will have to be filled by people coming to New Zealand from overseas. Perhaps - people like you.

More detail about the immediate future is in the short term jobs forecast section below.

New Zealand has many job openings for specialists in sectors such as health, engineering and IT. But there are also opportunities for workers with more generalist skills, particularly in construction/trades and in business services.

Man working in factory on machine

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Skills in demand

New Zealand has always welcomed people with skills. But some skills are particularly sought after. These feature on official lists of ‘Essential Skills in Demand’ (ESID), which are updated regularly.

If your job is on one of these skills shortages lists it means the Government accepts that there aren’t enough New Zealanders qualified for the role so employers need to recruit from overseas. Assuming you have the right qualifications and experience, that will make getting a visa easier.

Currently, the lists cover skills in these areas:

table caption
  Long Term shortages Regional shortages Construction and Infrastructure shortages
Agriculture and forestry    
Health and social services  
ICT and electronics  
Recreation, hospitality & tourism  

A full list of current skill shortages in New Zealand can be found by using our handy tool:

Skill shortage list checker | Immigration New Zealand

Visa options

There are various types of visas that you may be eligible to apply for.

Work visas are for a temporary stay in New Zealand, but some can lead to residence. Resident visas let you stay indefinitely and access more state-funded public services.

Visas to work

Other skills and avenues

Even if your skills aren’t on the shortage lists, you may still be able to get a visa.

If you can get a firm job offer and your employer can show they can’t find a New Zealander for the vacancy, then you may be able to apply for a work visa.

Alternatively, you may be able to apply for a resident visa if you meet the criteria for our Skilled Migrant Category.

Great job opportunities in New Zealand (02:15)

George Manjooran: What I liked about New Zealand before moving was like the work/life balance and the IT industry is still in the growth phase, so I thought maybe New Zealand is the right place for me to pursue my career.

Bob Stimson: I was looking for some new opportunities. I was looking for a change from the position that I was in. There was a very big need for structural engineers in New Zealand following the Christchurch earthquakes.

Connor Coady: The wind industry here in New Zealand is still relatively young compared with Europe and it's very exciting to be part of an industry that's growing.

Simon Shaw: We came over six months before we permanently emigrated and I went back with probably four or five job offers.

Lindsay Crummet: One thing that really drew me to the film industry in Wellington was that it seemed so accessible, especially in comparison to Los Angeles. It just seemed so easy that I was able to set up a meeting and meet Richard Taylor. It progressed to where I was finally able to get a job.

Willem Landman: There's lots of opportunities for doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals anywhere in New Zealand. A very large proportion of our healthcare workforce is foreign-trained.

Peter Mathewson: We've currently got a worldwide recruitment campaign on the go for structural and geo-technical engineers, and we're marketing across Europe, Ireland, through the UK, Canada, and USA.

Scott Campbell: There's still a real shortage of trained, experienced geo-special professionals. You'll see there's a lot more jobs on offer than there are CVs available. The industry is still growing, and we're seeing the GIS area growing especially quickly.

Tony Stone: The skill gap that we find here at GNS in terms of recruitment is predominately experienced PhD scientists. Five to seven years’ experience, so overseas recruits are a core part of our need.

Adrian Matthews: In terms of career opportunities, my wife and I have both been really, really pleased with the number of opportunities that exist and that will exist in the future.

Simon Shaw: I think if you're the sort of person that's willing to give things a go, get stuck in, it shouldn't be too hard to find a job.

George Manjooran: If you prepare well, if you do a proper job research, if you study the market well, it's easy to get a job in New Zealand.

Getting started

The first step usually is finding a job. Check out where your skills will fit best and which employers are looking for your expertise.

Job sites to explore

Short term jobs markets forecast

In 2019 and into the early 2020s, it’s expected that the combination of a growing population, increased government spending and favourable export prices will keep our economy growing steadily. That in turn will keep our job market strong.

Total job numbers should grow 2.3% in 2019, a little less in 2020, with 153,000 more people finding work over the three years to 2021.

Job numbers will grow in virtually every kind of work. But the largest increases will be in business services, construction/utilities, health care/social assistance and education.

Which regions

Overall, most of the new jobs will be in Auckland and the Waikato in the North Island. In the South Island, Marlborough, Tasman and the West Coast will do relatively well.

A fast-growing business services sector will need highly skilled workers, particularly in urban regions like Auckland and Wellington.

Construction and utilities employers will be seeking professionals, technicians and trade workers, and labourers across the country but particularly in Auckland.

The public services sector (which provides jobs in public administration and safety; health care/social assistance; and education/training) will create a lot of new vacancies - a quarter of the total expected up to 2020. Growth in this sector will come from the need to provide services like education, childcare and social care to a growing and aging population. Most new jobs will be in urban areas, including the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. 

Which jobs

Demand for ‘highly skilled’ workers is forecast to grow faster than overall jobs over the next three years.

The types of highly skilled occupations expected to grow fastest include business and system analysts and programmers; ICT managers; architects, planners and surveyors; advertising, public relations, sales managers; and legal professionals.

However, ‘skilled’ workers will also be in demand, particularly  glaziers, plasterers and tilers; electricians; plumbers; animal attendants, trainers and shearers; and fabrication engineering trade workers.

You can find detailed information on predictions for the labour market on the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment website. The website also has a New Zealand Labour Market Dashboard which displays labour market information from many different sources in one place. 

Labour market forecasting | MBIE

Labour market dashboard | MBIE

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Page last updated: 22/06/2020

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