The latest Maori unemployment figures have horrified Labour and the Maori Party.

New Zealand's unemployment rate surged back to a 10-year high in the second quarter of the year, it was revealed today.

While unemployment overall has increased from 6 per cent to 6.8 per cent in the Household Labour Force Survey, Maori unemployment is up from 14.2 per cent to 16.4 per cent.

"That means 26,400 Maori are now without jobs - an increase of 3600 since the previous quarter," said Labour's Maori affairs spokesman Parekura Horomia.

"The situation actually is even worse because the unemployment rate is higher in places like the East Coast and the Far North."

Economists were expecting the jobless rate to rise to 6.4 per cent after its biggest decline last quarter, but today's rise took them by surprise.

ANZ Bank economist Khoon Goh said the data "was much weaker than we or the market were expecting".

The problem: a lack of jobs

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said the Maori unemployment figures were shocking.

"It's terrible, that's about all you can say really," he told reporters.

"It's a reflection of the times, and for many Maori it's last on, first off in any crisis."

Dr Sharples said training opportunities for young Maori would help "but when there are no jobs, there are no jobs".

But he didn't think the situation was hopeless and the Government had created programmes which were helping.

Labour leader Phil Goff said the figures were a tragedy for those who had lost their jobs.

"This is more evidence that the Government's economic policies are failing," he said.

"Kiwis have had enough of gimmicks like the Jobs Summit and the cycleway - they want action from the Government to get them back into work."

Mr Goff said the Government didn't have a plan to deal with the situation and further inaction would mean prolonged uncertainty over the jobs market.

'Complacent' government needs to act

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the figures were a stark reminder that the Government's policies were taking New Zealand in the wrong direction, and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) said there was a sense that the economy was stalling.

"The figure of 6.8 percent shows that the recession is not over for many," said CTU secretary Peter Conway.

"The Government is far too complacent about this - jobs are at the heart of any economic recovery."

Mr Conway called on the Government to step up assistance for unemployed people by expanding its employment programmes and bringing forward job-rich infrastructure spending.

A 'slow, steady' recovery

Employment Minister Paula Bennett said the latest rate was lower than the 7.1 percent recorded in December.

"The fact is that we still have too many people out of work and that's where our focus remains," she said.

"We always knew it would be a bumpy road to recovery post-recession and it is, but an overall picture is emerging of a very slow, steady recovery."

Ms Bennett said the trend showed that since December there were 5000 fewer people unemployed and an extra 15,000 people in work.

- NZPA