The Social Development Minister says the number of people on a benefit fell by 12,531 in March but the figure does not take into account the current situation in Christchurch.
Paula Bennett says the 3.5% decrease means there are now more than 331,529 people collecting a benefit.
Ms Bennett says while that is encouraging, there will be increases related to the February earthquake in coming months.
More than 60,000 people in Christchurch are receiving a job subsidy payment under the Government's earthquake support package.
However, Ms Bennett has said that she expects the number of unemployed, once that package ceases, to run into the thousands, rather than the tens of thousands.