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Pay packets from recruitment service Student Job Search (SJS) were nearly $700,000 less in Otago last year than the total earned by students in SJS placements in 2012.
SJS figures revealed Otago students earned 9% less last year than the previous year - a fall from $8.051 million to $7.353 million.
Otago University Students' Association president Ruby Sycamore-Smith said the ''big drop'' in earnings was ''disheartening'' for students, especially with the cuts to student support.
''Students want to work and if the jobs aren't there then it's going to make for another tough year.''
Last year, SJS placed fewer students in jobs and those with jobs worked for shorter periods than in 2012.
The average amount earned per placement reduced from $1848 to $1766, she said.
Ms Sycamore-Smith said students were the ''backbone'' of part-time employment in New Zealand.
''We'll continue to promote the Student Job Search service in 2014. Now let's hope the economy picks up.''
OUSA student support centre manager Matt Tucker said more students used the OUSA-funded foodbank last year than in 2012.
Students relied on part-time work to buy food and he hoped more work would be available to Otago students this year.
Students earning and spending was good for the Otago economy, he said.
''I hope that the reduction in income was a one-off, because it's not good for the students and it's not good for Dunedin.''
Student Job Search is a free service for students and businesses or individuals can list fulltime or one-off jobs. More information at: www.sjs.co.nz.