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Mobilising labour in order to rebuild the town of Canterbury, presents the greatest labour market challenge in a generation, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. In the latest quarterly labour market report, the ministry said that the Canterbury rebuild would require many thousands of additional construction workers at its peak.
The earthquake that struck Christchurch in February 2011 killed 185 people and caused significant damage to the local infrastructure. The rebuild will continue over many years, as aftershocks and the on-going seismic activity in the region have slowed down progress.
The largest component of the construction effort is the rebuilding and repairing of thousands of residential properties, according to the ministry. The extensively damaged central business district is expected to take many years to rebuild. The most in-demand construction related jobs were carpenters and joiners, paint trade workers, plasters and concrete workers.
The ministry had expected migration from within New Zealand to be a key source of labour for the rebuild, but also predicts that external migration was also expected to play a role.
Australia Statistics Bureau economist Jane Turner stated that the Canterbury rebuild remained a key draw for permanent and long term workers, with arrivals in Canterbury up +49% compared with a year ago. More recently, the slowdown in the Australian economy has resulted in a strong rise in New Zealanders returning home.
Ms Turner added that departures had steadily fallen, particularly to Australia. With the mining investment boom starting to slow, the labour demand has eased and unemployment is edging higher. In contrast, the outlook for New Zealand’s labour market is for gradual improvement.