Unemployment in Hawke's Bay and the East Coast has risen to a staggering new high of 10,200.
The figure in Statistics NZ's September quarterly Household Labour Force Survey is up more than 50 per cent on the 6700 reported in June.
Of the 8.9 per cent of people over the age of 15 considered eligible for work, it's the highest regional rate of unemployment in New Zealand apart from Northland. The figures "stunned" Napier-based former opposition Labour list MP Stuart Nash, who noted the 1999 and 2012 highs had both come at times of a National Government, with the same Minister of Finance.
Mr Nash knew employment prospects were deteriorating, but said he wasn't aware how bad the situation had become.
"And imagine what it would look like if so many people hadn't got up and left, and gone to Australia," he said.
He said Hawke's Bay's reliance on climate in its economy indicated a necessity for the region to be more in control of its own destiny for growth to take place, with more skilled, higher-paid, quality jobs.
"Having 10,000 people unemployed in the region is disastrous," Mr Nash said. "It's not just the financial cost, but the social cost is high, and you end up with a whole lot of problems."
The figures also did not surprise unemployed Napier man Roger Taylor, who says he wants to get back to work, at least as he has been seasonal in a packhouse or fulltime checking-out hire equipment.
He says Work and Income have told him to take a job picking blueberries near Flaxmere, which requires at least two buses, and a walk, and if he doesn't take it, a 13-week stand-down from receiving a benefit.
Having been on the benefit, resources are thin and "it's hard to own a car," he said.
"But if I have to, I'll probably bike out there the night before, camp under a tree, and organise a ride from there," said Mr Taylor, who has acquired a diploma in teaching and might try his luck abroad teaching English.
It highlighted the difficulties of entering or re-entering the workforce from a struggling position. "They can pay for someone to get from Vanuatu to Central Hawke's Bay, but they can't help someone get from Napier to Hastings," Mr Taylor said.
Nationwide, 7.3 per cent were said to be out of work, the highest rate since 1999.
The survey categorises those out of work nationwide in two sectors - 170,000 as "unemployed," and 124,900 "jobless" defined as seeking work but not immediately available or available but not looking for work, or alternatively "discouraged" from looking for work or not actively seeking work apart from scanning job advertisements.
The 294,900 total is the highest since 1986, soon after Department of Statistics established the surveys method, and it would have been worse without the first signs of recovery in Canterbury, where those in jobs has climbed by more than 4000.
The 3500 extra unemployed in Gisborne-Hawke's Bay between reports represents almost 18.5 per cent of the 19,000 added to the nation's jobless queue.
Labour employment spokesman Su'a William Sio said noted unemployment rates for Maori and Pacific people are worse than average. The European unemployment rate rose from 4.9 per cent a year ago to 5.4 per cent, but the Maori rate jumped from 13.1 per cent to 15.1 per cent and the Pacific rate from 14.4 per cent to 15.6 per cent.
Finance Minister Bill English said the figures reflected "economic head-winds around the world".
"The fact is we have the Christchurch rebuild," he said. "The infrastructure unit from Christchurch is out trying to recruit 1000 people around the country right now, so for people who are looking for jobs that is the best opportunity."
But a leading trade unionist points the finger at the Government. Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Bill Newson said the figures resulted from management of the economy, listing Dynamic Controls, Rakon and Solid Energy's Spring Creek among businesses affected by recent mass redundancies.
"The strength of the dollar and its extreme volatility is punishing our export manufacturing sector, while the Government refuses to come up with a strategy to support and promote manufacturing firms."
The survey also showed those fulltime employed dropped 1 per cent in the past year, but those employed part-time rose 3.6 per cent.