Unions say the true number of job losses is far greater than the numbers announced last week, and companies are using the recession to increase their profit margins.
Companies revealed plans to shed 524 jobs, mainly in the processing and manufacturing sectors, since a Government-initiated job summit.
National Distribution Union secretary Laila Harre says low visibility work in the retail-related trades is being hardest hit, rather than factory positions.
Ms Harre says thousands of jobs have been lost over the past two months as employers choose not to replace people leaving. She says The Warehouse chain is cutting the equivalent of 600 jobs this year by reducing hours and dropping positions.
The Service and Foodworkers union says small hospitality providers are quietly shedding hundreds of staff.
Among the job losses announced last week were 105 positions at Irwin Industrial Tools in Wellsford and 60 jobs from timber products company Nelson Pine Industries.
Sealord announced it would be ending 180 night-shift jobs at its Nelson factory in favour of sea-based processing, because of rising costs.
The Service and Foodworkers Union says profitable high-profile employers such as Sealord are not threatened by the recession, but are playing up the economic downturn to cut jobs. The union says such employers need to be more honest in their motives for restructuring their businesses.