The New Zealand small to medium enterprise (SME) job
market has remained stable in recent times but the economic
recovery and record business confidence is unlikely to
translate into significant new employment.
Data from MYOB says that according to a review of three years
of employment data from the MYOB business monitor, the
proportion of SME employers intending to take on new staff in
the year to February 2014 is only 8%.
That is down from 11% who said in 2011 they would take on new
staff over the next year and 11% who said the same in 2012.
The proportion intending to maintain existing staff levels
rose from 66% over the previous two years to 72% in 2013.
MYOB New Zealand general manager business division James
Scollay said the local SME job market had remained ''fairly
''This is good news for the around one-third of all New
Zealanders employed by a small to medium business owner,
giving them confidence about their employment prospects. This
should translate into stable consumer spending and
However, despite a growing confidence right across the SME
sector, there had not been a significant improvement in
employment conditions, with fewer employers expecting to take
on new staff this year, he said.
In times of uncertainty, it was natural for business owners -
especially those with no or few employees - to ''hunker
down'' rather than lift their investment in people.
Otago-Southland Employers' Association chief executive John
Scandrett said from what he was seeing, the SME operating
environment generally was more configured around maintaining
existing business levels, rather than carrying a significant
emphasis on forward growth and the associated expanded
Most operators recognised the economic playing field could
still tilt negatively at relatively short notice and, as a
consequence, it was more about protecting the existing patch
than moving forward into uncharted territory.
''Just at this time, there seems to be an `on edge' factor
prevalent in the workplace.
"Perhaps this is, to some extent, a psychological spin-out
from what we're seeing in the Wellington region,'' he said.
Labour Party economic development spokesman David Clark said
it was tough for small business owners.
''They are working their guts out and not getting the support
they need. The Government claims the economy is picking up
but the small business community is hunkering down. Small
businesses are the lifeblood of the economy but this
Government is letting them stagnate.''
The problems facing small businesses were in direct contrast
with the millions of dollars given to large corporates that
Prime Minister John Key and Economic Development Minister
Steven Joyce randomly decided to support, Dr Clark said.
Mr Scollay said the state of the local economy directly
affected the confidence of owners in the future of their
business and they took less risk in investing in new staff.
''This has obvious ramifications for the broader public,
given the proportion of New Zealanders who are, and could be,
employed by SMEs.
''This is something we can hope to see change so more
households can enjoy the benefits of improved growth
spreading across the whole country,'' he said.
There were some positive signs emerging.
Although employment intentions among businesses with fewer
than 20 employees had fallen in the past year, particularly
among small businesses with between six and 19 employees, an
increasing number of mid-sized businesses were considering
employing staff, Mr Scollay said.
At a glance
Micro businesses: one to five employees
Small businesses: six to 19 employees
Medium businesses: 20 to 199 employees