The latest weekly NZ Jobseeker numbers suggest the "real-time unemployment rate" is now sitting just above 6 per cent, ASB economists say.
That's a sharp spike from the official 4.2 per cent figure published in the Stats NZ Labour Index for the March quarter and suggests that at least 55,000 people have lost their jobs since the start of April.
But the worst may be yet to come.
"The big test for the NZ labour market will be the second half of the year, as the removal of the Government's wage subsidy reveals some previously 'hidden' unemployment," said ASB senior economist Mike Jones.
ASB sees unemployment sitting just above 8 per cent by the end of the year, which would suggest another 55,000 unemployed - taking the total of New Zealanders actively seeking work to more than 220,000.
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Today, Westpac's McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Survey showed employment confidence fell sharply in the June quarter as the impact of the lockdown hit businesses.
"The biggest hit to the survey came from people's perceptions about current job opportunities," said Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon.
"That was slightly offset by a lift in perceptions of future opportunities, which were less pessimistic than they were in March."
That fits a pattern in online job advertisements, he said.
"Hiring understandably plunged during the level 4 lockdown, with advertisements down about 75 per cent on the same time last year.
"The trend has improved as the country has moved down the alert levels, though currently they're still running about 20 per cent below last year."
Westpac also sees unemployment sitting around 8 per cent at the end of the year.
Some economists have picked a higher level than that. However, the speed that New Zealand moved out of lockdown, and the strong rebound indicators like retail spending and heavy traffic, have prompted many to revise down their forecasts for peak unemployment.
In the end, the peak unemployment figure will be less relevant to New Zealand's economic recovery than the duration that unemployment remains elevated.
While borders remain closed the economy remains at risk of a prolonged slowdown through 2021 and 2022.
Both ASB and Westpac expect unemployment will stay elevated through 2021.
Westpac is picking an annual rate of 6.6 per cent for 2020.
ASB doesn't see the rate dropping below 7 per cent until 2023.
In contrast to Treasury's May forecast, Westpac forecast unemployment rising to a peak 9.8 per cent by September this year, but dropping to just 5.7 per cent by 2022.
The Westpac McDermott Miller survey showed workers were also increasingly downbeat about their earnings prospects.
The balance of workers reporting a rise in their past earnings fell to its lowest on record.
"This fits with some survey evidence that, in terms of businesses' response to the crisis, pay cuts and/or reduced hours have played at least as much of a role as layoffs," Gordon said.
"The Government's wage subsidy scheme is likely to have played a major role here, allowing employers to keep workers on at reduced pay during the lockdown."
Workers' perceptions about their job security also fell sharply.
"For many workers, it's not clear what will happen as the wage subsidy scheme expires over the coming months," Gordon said.
The survey took place over the period June 1-10, 2020. The sample size was 1556.