Q4 2021 Labour Market Data Preview: Labour market set to tighten further in 2022

  • The Q4 2021 figures are expected to show a tightening in labour market conditions, with sluggish employment growth, but the unemployment rate and wider underutilisation measures printing around record lows
  • Annual wage growth is expected to hit its highest rate in more than a decade, given the tight labour market and rising cost of living. Accelerating nominal wage growth is on the cards for 2022, but this will likely be outstripped by high inflation
  • The Omicron outbreak in early 2022 will be disruptive for the labour market and, while its impacts are assumed to be temporary, it will place additional strains on already-stretched labour market capacity and wage inflation
The labour market figures may still be clouded by 2021 COVID-19 disruptions but are expected to show that the labour market tightened at the end of last year, with employment above its maximum sustainable level. Given the shortage of workers and the likelihood of some pullback from the strong Q3 HLFS print, employment growth is expected to be sluggish over Q4. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to a record low, with other labour utilisation metrics to tighten further. Wage growth is expected to accelerate to its highest annual rate in more than a decade and become more broad-based over 2022. Omicron disruptions to the labour market and wider economy are expected in early 2022 and could further tighten the domestic labour market, although the impact of the outbreak should be short-lived.  For now, we assume a steady pace of 25bp hikes and a 2% OCR endpoint but note that a tighter labour market and persistently-high inflation calls for more action by the RBNZ.


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Nick Tuffley

ASB Chief Economist

Since starting out in 1997 as an economist, it's fair to say Nick has seen a few hair-raising moments over the years, including the Asian Financial Crisis and the Global Financial Crisis.

One of Nick's strengths is his ability to communicate complex ideas in a readily understandable and entertaining way.  He thrives on helping people understand the economic environment to help enrich the quality of their business or personal life. He’s proud to lead a team that has won two Forecast Accuracy Awards from Consensus Economics, and has a strong track record with their Official Cash Rate and dairy price forecasts. 

Nick grew up in Christchurch and graduated with a Master of Commerce degree from the University of Canterbury.  He learned his economic ropes at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand before a long stint as a Senior Economist at Westpac, and joined ASB as Chief Economist in 2007.

Mark Smith

Senior Economist

Mark joined ASB in 2017, with over 20 years of public and private sector experience working as an economist in New Zealand and the UK.

His resume includes lengthy stints at ANZ and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and he has also worked at the Bank of England, HM Treasury and the New Zealand Transport Agency. Mark's areas of specialisation include interest rate strategy, macro-economic analysis and urban economics.

Born and bred in the Waikato, Mark studied at Waikato University where he graduated with a Master of Social Sciences, majoring in Economics.

Mark's key strengths are the ability to use his extensive experience, inquisitive nature, analytical ability, creativity and pragmatism to dig a little deeper and to deliver common sense solutions to tackle complex problems.

When not at work Mark likes to travel, keep fit and spend time with his friends and family.