The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index rose to 103.4 in the December 2013 quarter, from 102.8 in the September 2013 quarter.
Households’ perceptions of the availability of jobs remain substantially negative, said Westpac Chief Economist Dominick Stephens. "That fits with the observation that while the New Zealand economy was gathering a head of steam over 2013, it was still running short of full capacity."
"Fortunately, there are signs that conditions are gradually improving for jobseekers," said Mr Stephens. "This gives us more confidence that the unemployment rate will finally break below its post-recession range of 6-7% over the coming year."
In contrast, expectations of future earnings growth have actually been declining over the last year, said Mr Stephens. "The fact that inflation fell to a 14-year low during 2013 is likely to have reflected on recent pay negotiations, and could continue to do so in the near future."
The survey was conducted over 1 - 10 December, with a sample size of 1,569. An index number over 100 indicates that optimists outnumber pessimists. The margin of error is 2.5% for a 95% confidence interval.
Within the index’s five component series, households’ perceptions of current job opportunities saw the biggest improvement, rising from a net -51.9% to -46.9%. This was the least negative reading since December 2008. Expectations for job opportunities a year from now rose from -5.8% to -3.4%.
The net percentage reporting rising earnings rose for the sixth quarter in a row, to 28.0%. However, the net percentage expecting earnings to rise over the coming year fell from 32.6% to 29.3%, the lowest since June 2012.
Respondents’ expectations for their own job security fell for a second quarter, to a net 10% optimistic.