The number of people receiving unemployment benefit climbed by about 6,500 in the three months to March compared with the previous quarter.
About 37,000 people aged between 18 and 64 received the benefit in March, up from 30,500 in December, figures from the Ministry of Social Development show.
Of those, 70% were male, and 11% had been in paid work during the previous 12 months.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said last month that numbers were tracking the Treasury's worst-case scenario, which forecast a 7.5% unemployment rate by the middle of 2010.
It is expected that up to 60,000 people could be getting unemployment benefits by the end of the year.
The unemployment rate for the December quarter reached a five-year high of 4.6%, while the number people in work also hit a record high.
Statistics New Zealand says the number of people unemployed rose almost 11% to 105,000 in the quarter.
At the same time, those in work rose almost 1% to a record 2.19 million, mainly as a result of an increase in the number of people working part-time.