Strongest job growth in a decade

16 May 2024
Development West Coast
Economic activity on the West Coast rose 0.3% in the year to March 2024, slightly ahead of national growth of 0.2%, according to Infometrics provisional GDP estimates.

Development West Coast chief executive Heath Milne noted the region’s modest growth was largely driven by the minerals sector and the recovery of the tourism industry, though it was tempered by weaker performance in the agriculture, transport and construction sectors.

GDP growth was strongest in Buller, at 1.5%, reflecting the impact of the minerals sector in the area.

Employment in the region rose 2.5% in the year to March 2024.

“This represents 370 new jobs, marking the strongest growth the Coast has experienced in over a decade,” Milne said.

Unemployment has been ticking up nationally, from 3.7% over the year to December 2023 to 4.0% over the year to March 2024. However, West Coast unemployment is lower and growing slower, going from 3.3% to 3.4% over the same period.

The number of Jobseeker Support recipients is also growing slower, up 2.7% in the West Coast compared to 7.8% nationally. The effect of a strongly recovering tourism sector in Westland is clear, with the district recording a 3.5% decrease in Jobseekers.

Milne acknowledged that the region is not immune to the public sector job cuts and the cost-of-living crisis affecting the country. However, the West Coast is anticipating the creation of well-paying jobs, with several significant projects moving forward.

Federation Mining’s Snowy River project is expecting to take on over 100 additional employees as it moves to the construction and production phases, and Westland Mineral Sands is looking to expand south.

“Westland Milk Products is also looking to further expand and grow its operations in Hokitika in 2025, which will be a big boost to the region.”

The West Coast recorded the strongest consumer spending growth in New Zealand, up 7.7% in the year to March 2024, compared to 2.8% nationally. Within the region, spending growth was strongest in Westland (14%), reflecting the return of international visitors. Spending growth in Buller (5.6%) and Grey (4.1%) was also above the headline inflation rate of 4.0%.

Tourism continues to recover strongly on the West Coast, with 20% growth in guest nights in the year to March 2024, led by 27% growth in Westland.

Milne said DWC and West Coast tourism operators were in full force last week in Wellington promoting the region at New Zealand’s largest international tourism business event, TRENZ.

“DWC’s tourism team are now busy taking international travel agents across the Coast showcasing our untamed natural wilderness and the region’s amazing operators.”

The West Coast’s housing market continues to outperform the national trend, with house value growth of 11% pa in the March 2024 quarter, the strongest growth of any region. There is renewed interest in the housing market locally and nationally, with West Coast sales volumes up 4.6% in the year to March 2024, although the stock being listed has eased 9.8%, potentially adding tightness to the market.

The West Coast still has the country’s most affordable housing. The average house value in the region is currently $410,692, amounting to 3.7 times average household incomes. In comparison, the average house price nationally is $933,633 at 7 times average household incomes.

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