A serious lack of employment prospects is the biggest challenge facing Hawke's Bay, a local mayor says.
Figures released by Statistics New Zealand show Hawke's Bay has one of the country's highest unemployment rates at 9.3 per cent - above the national rate of 7.3, the worst in more than 10 years.
However a national report out yesterday shows job vacancies have rebounded in the past month, giving hope to thousands of job hunters.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said Hawke's Bay was the best part of the world to live in, but not having a job made living that dream difficult.
Hastings District Council's Youth Futures programme had been working with employers and schools to get people into work.
"I wouldn't so much say it's a job creation scheme with unemployment per se. But it's around offering new opportunities for young people in the existing workforce."
The programme linked school leavers up with local council work and jobs in manufacturing and food production, he said.
"I think everybody's finding it pretty tough," Mr Yule said. "There are companies that are doing well, but even they would say it's hard. I think this recessionary time has gone on for a lot longer than what a lot of people might have hoped.
"Currently the [lack of] employment prospects, not only in Hawke's Bay, but in New Zealand, would be the biggest challenge we face."
Nationally, job vacancies advertised online rose 15 per cent during the last year, according to the latest Jobs Online report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The report found demand for skilled workers was up nationwide, but warned that weak employment growth showed the labour market still faced significant challenges.
The latest results showed advertised skilled vacancies jumped by 5.6 per cent in October and online job vacancies increased by 4.7 per cent compared to September. Demand for skilled workers was up in the country's main centres with the strongest growth in Auckland, followed by Wellington and Canterbury.
In the past year, the number of jobs advertised online has jumped significantly - with skilled job vacancies up by 14.2 per cent and total job vacancies by 15 per cent.
However, Statistics NZ figures revealed last week unemployment rose by 19,000 to 170,100 in the year to September, pushing the jobless rate up from 6.6 per cent to 7.3 per cent - the highest since 1999.
Seek New Zealand general manager Janet Faulding said the job market was showing signs of improvement, though hiring was easing as the year drew to a close.