Employment growth of 11%pa for Queenstown Lakes

The September 2023 labour market report for Queenstown Lakes District has been released and can be downloaded here. The report was commissioned by Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC).

Queenstown-Lakes’ labour market continues to have the fastest employment growth in the country. Over the past 12 months, there has been an 11% increase in employment within the District, backed up by a surge in working age people moving into the local area. Nevertheless, employment growth has still moderated slightly and follows 13%pa growth in June. All industries are growing, but the pace of growth in construction and professional services has slowed.

Business confidence has lifted following a mid-year lull. Such a lift in confidence usually occurs heading into summer, but it is especially good to see businesses feeling a wee bit more confident ahead of summer given they are still battling with input cost pressures and relatively squeezed margins.

But one cost pressure that is dissipating are wages. Wage growth experienced double digit growth rates at the start of 2022 and was still at 9.2%pa in September 2022, but is now sitting back down at 6.3%pa. Reduced wage pressures has occurred as businesses get back up to full capacity and are not quite as eager to hire at all costs. The availability of workers has also improved significantly, with businesses now reporting that it is relatively easy to fill unskilled roles.

Spotlight on commuting

This report also contains a snapshot section on commuting into Queenstown-Lakes from neighbouring areas which, anecdotally, has been driven by the limited availability and high cost of housing in the District. Comprehensive data on commuting is difficult to find, but what has been shown is that:

  • Census 2018 identified at least 321 people who travel every day from a residential address outside of Queenstown-Lakes to a fixed workplace address located within the District. Of those employees identified as commuting, 93% (297) were reported to be from Cromwell and its surrounds.
  • The commuter cohort from Census 2018 is an underestimate because some people, for example builders, may not have a fixed workplace address and so are not captured as a commuter. Taxation records suggest that the scale of commuting when Census 2018 was performed could have been multiples of the 321 commuters identified by the Census.
  • Taxation records show that there were 1,924 more jobs in businesses operating within Queenstown-Lakes in the March 2018 year than there were employed local residents. These jobs need to be filled by people residing outside the District, although not all will involve a regular physical commute as people could work from home or only periodically travel.
  • The number of excess jobs within Queenstown-Lakes businesses above and beyond the number of jobs held by local residents has risen sharply recently, reaching 3,321 in the June 2023 year. The magnitude of this increase suggests commuting could have lifted more than 50% in five years.

Given evidence that there is likely to be a growing cohort of commuters, it is recommended that a business case for a public transport route between Wānaka, Queenstown and Cromwell is considered, in line with the action identified in the MahiQL Workforce Strategy.

The full report by Benje Patterson is available for download here.