Prime Minister John Key says the latest unemployment figures are old and the job market is getting better.
Unemployment rose by 8000 in the final three months of last year to 158,000; not far off a peak of 163,000 at the end of 2009.
But Mr Key says business surveys show companies want to take on employees, a trend that began in the middle of last year.
He also says the survey is a lagging indicator, not a leading one.
Hours worked by existing personnel have been increasing steadily since the start of 2010; something that Deutsche Bank economist Darren Gibbs says could continue for another six months.
He expects the unemployment rate will continue to rise, until companies become confident enough to hire again midyear.
The BNZ says the jobs recovery will be slow, with employers preferring for the time being to increase the number of hours employees are working.
More Govt spending urged
But the Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union says the Government needs to invest in infrastructure projects to create jobs and assets.
National secretary Andrew Little, Little, who is also president of the Labour Party, says the Government has stepped aside from the role it should be playing in an economic downturn.
The Green Party says the Government could reduce unemployment by building more state houses.
Co-leader Metiria Turei says the Greens' solution is to build 6000 new state houses. She says this would create 28,000 jobs.