8 Apr 2009

Work and Income 'up to dealing with more jobless'

6:43 am on 8 April 2009

Work and Income is prepared to deal with substantially greater numbers of people on the unemployment benefit, says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Ms Bennett says benefit numbers are tracking broadly in line with Treasury's worst-case scenario from December, when it forecast an unemployment rate of 7.5% by mid-2010.

She says that could translate into about 60,000 people on unemployment benefits by the end of the year, well up on the current number of about 35,000.

Work and Income will be able to cope with that increase using existing staff, Ms Bennett says.

She says 60 people have already been moved into front-line positions to help job-seekers, and 200 more will be moved in the next few months.

Key silent on ultimate jobless rate

Prime Minister John Key will still not put a figure on how much he expects unemployment to rise in New Zealand.

Mr Key says Treasury's figure of 7.5%, or 60,000 jobless, looks a bit high to him, but it is difficult to predict what will happen.

He says the Government is focused on doing everything it can to help people stay in their jobs or find another job.

Treasury is preparing revised forecasts for release with the Budget in May.