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New jobs, old jobs: The evolution of work in New Zealand’s cities and towns

Recent international research has highlighted how the effects of changes in technology and markets vary among different parts of a country. Understanding this regional dimension of economic performance can help explain New Zealand’s aggregate productivity performance and how this performance could be improved. This working paper New jobs, old jobs: the evolution of work in New Zealand’s cities and towns uses Census data from 1976 to illustrate the changing economic geography of New Zealand’s cities and regions. This research distinguishes the employment dynamics of New Zealand’s large urban areas from those of smaller ones and shows how the transition paths out of manufacturing and into professional services sectors have varied among urban areas. It also shows how the economies of most cities and towns in New Zealand have become less reliant on specialist industries and more like each other, which has implications for regional labour mobility and government policy. While the material is largely descriptive, its aim is to unravel the effects of several different forces on the evolution of jobs, towns and cities. This paper is not designed to make predictions about either the future of work or the future of regions. Rather, by documenting the evolution of regional employment patterns in New Zealand over the last 40 years, it aims to help understand how New Zealand has got to its current situation. A Cut to the chase summarises the paper, explaining what it reveals and means for policymakers.