The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index rose to 109.4 in the first three months of 2014, from 103.4 in the final quarter of 2013.
The index is now at its highest level since the global financial crisis and ensuing recession, although it is still weaker than before the recession hit, according to Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens.
While households’ perceptions of job opportunities improved to the best reading since December 2008, it is still deeply negative at -32 per cent from -46.9 per cent.
“The fruits of New Zealand’s economic upturn are increasingly becoming apparent to workers and jobseekers,” Mr Stephens said.
“Nevertheless, conditions are still markedly weaker than they were before the recession hit, and workers and job seekers remain understandably cautious about the pace of improvement.”
The survey comes after government figures last month showed New Zealand’s unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of six per cent in the fourth quarter while employment rose a faster-than-expected 1.1 per cent.
The Waikato showed the biggest gain in employment confidence, rising 18.9 points to 115.2, the highest of any region.
Confidence rose 9.8 points to 113.1 points in Auckland and slipped a point to 114 in Canterbury.
Taranaki/Manawatu fell 2.1 points to 97.8 and Bay of Plenty dropped 14.7 points to 96.1, the only two regions to register below 100 in the latest survey.
A reading above 100 indicates more optimists than pessimists.