So far about 9200 job cuts have been signalled or actioned by NZX-listed companies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and impending recession.
Led by Air New Zealand with an estimated 4000 cuts, it's no surprise that the hardest hit are retailers and tourism. Fletcher Building's 1000 job losses here and 500 in Australia also do not bode well for the construction sector's outlook.
Yet investors like to hear their firms are slimming down.
Air NZ shares gained 9 per cent last week after announcing its initial round of cuts wasn't deep enough and more jobs would be lost. Similarly, the Warehouse gained 4 per cent after announcing 1000 redundancies.
The Prime Minister may be angry, but this is the new world order. Jobseeker benefit data show new claims rose by more than 45,600 since March 20, before lockdown, to 190,607 at June 5.
Nearly half of firms report having fewer staff than a year ago, and ANZ's preliminary Business Outlook survey indicates a net 37 per cent of firms still expect to cut jobs. This is an improvement from May which the bank said reflects that many firms have already acted.
So what does a world of layoffs mean for the country's biggest labour hire firm, AWF Madison Group?
The company just posted an increase in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to $12.4 million, a touch below its October guidance of $12.7m to $14m. However, the result to March 31 seems almost irrelevant in the post-Covid world.
AWF said it won't pay a final dividend and last week said the result for the next six months was "satisfactory".
"We are being coy in our result as to what our future looks like but we are at about 70 per cent of where we thought we would be," chief executive Simon Bennett said last week.
The onset of the pandemic may set back its development in many ways.
As its name suggests, the recruiter has its history in blue-collar Allied Workforce and the white-collar temp staffing provider Madison Group.
The $29m acquisition of Madison Group in 2013 was followed by the $15.3m purchase of Absolute IT in 2016 and, more recently, the public sector-focused JacksonStone & Partners for $10.5m.
These new white-collar divisions are more profitable, as the group's annual report shows. Blue-collar work makes up 37 per cent of revenue, but only 20 per cent of segment profits.
The company is conscious of this and has been avoiding blue-collar contracts that have been too risky, following the poor 2019 result when blue collar's profit contribution fell from $4.8m to $1.3m when a number of construction customers were placed in receivership or liquidation. Bad debt write-offs were $1.1m.
This year, AWF Madison wrote off just $123,000, which Bennett attributes to being fussier about construction, manufacturing and logistics clients.
In its blue-collar division, margin growth has also been achieved by seeking permanent placements rather than lower-margin temporary work.
The shift has been gradual, however. Last year the recruiter billed $221m from temporary work versus $11.5m from placements.
Of the permanent placement billings, blue collar contributed $1.6m, or 14 per cent, a big improvement from 7.9 per cent last year, but still a small fraction of overall revenue.
With the upcoming recession, Bennett concedes there will be a "natural shift" to more contingent work.
AWF sees itself as a key player in the upcoming labour market transition. It wants the Government to introduce more active labour market policies.
For example, government procurement contracts could reward suppliers who guarantee to retrain staff after large infrastructure projects - an area which AWF could excel in, Bennett said.
"Success lies in our ability to identify transferable skills in candidates, train them for redeployment; and convince our clients of their resilience and ability to learn," the company puts aspirationally in its annual report.
It won't just be government policy which could help the recruiter. The coalition Government's appetite to take on staff and keep them is set to provide a boon.
The JacksonStone acquisition added $27m to the group's top line in 10 months, and AWF's accounts say Covid-19 is unlikely to materially impact its financial performance.
The JacksonStone play is not just about recruiting public service bosses. It is also about developing close enough relationships with those executives to benefit the Madison and Absolute IT brands.
With labour markets changing, investors will be hoping AWF Group's work for better margins pays off.