300 more jobs to find work for jobless

The recession is creating jobs with 300 new staff now required to tackle soaring unemployment.

Yesterday, the Government announced $17.2 million to fund 303 more frontline staff at Work and Income offices, to help put people into work.

The cash injection came as figures reveal a 169 per cent jump in people on the dole in the past year.

Labour is warning that, if the trend continues, 80,000 people could be on the unemployment benefit by year's end.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said existing Work and Income staff could handle increased unemployment up to 60,000, but beyond that extra staff would be needed.

Figures issued yesterday show 55,272 people on the dole at July 31, an increase of 34,726 people or 169 per cent - from July 2008.

Ms Bennett said of the rising figures: "I don't find them daunting but I certainly find them concerning."

Labour welfare spokeswoman Annette King said a total of 315,665 people were collecting main benefits.

Over the past four months an average of 1100 people a week had signed up for the dole.

"If this trend continues there will be around 80,000 people collecting the unemployment benefit by the end of the year," Ms King said. "Labour believes the Government is not doing nearly enough to stimulate jobs and training."

Ms Bennett said that, although unemployment would continue to rise, it needed to be put into perspective. In June 1999 more than 150,000 were on the dole and in March it was 100,000 people almost double the latest figure.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott welcomed the new staff after a wave of public service job cuts and said they were needed. Staff had been "shouldering a steeply rising workload".

Most of the new staff will go to urban areas, with 104 staff already recruited to work in Auckland.

Of the 303 total, 206 will be focused on finding jobs, 34 in the Wellington-based job call centre, and 63 would join the national call centre, which was forecast to take 6.4 million calls by the end of the year equating to 51 calls a minute of every weekday working hour.

Earlier this week the unemployment rate hit 6 per cent, taking the number of people without jobs to a 10-year high of 138,000. Economists predict it to reach 7.5 per cent next year.

The Dominion Post