Zoltan Buday found out he was losing his job while he was watching the 6pm news.

The news report in early April confirmed that SkyCity Casino, where he worked as a dealer, was cutting 200 jobs and planning another 700 job losses.

"It was during level 4 lockdown and I was holed up at home," Buday said. "It was gutting."

Buday had worked there for eight years, and now finds himself looking for another hospitality job - one of the sectors worst-hit by the Covid-19 crisis. He has been on a benefit before, but only briefly.


"I just don't know what's around the corner," he told the Herald.

He has applied for the Covid-19 Income Relief Payment, which is worth $490 a week. That will only cover the rent on his New Lynn flat, and he has two dependent children who he cares for three days a week. He received a redundancy payment, but lost a big chunk of it to tax.

Buday, a Unite Union delegate, had repeatedly urged SkyCity to apply for an extension to the wage subsidy so it could keep staff on. The company this week finally confirmed to staff in the last week that it was applying for the eight-week extension, but he had already been laid off.

Zoltan Buday first discovered he was losing his job at SkyCity Casino when he heard about mass job cuts on the news. Photo / Michael Craig
Zoltan Buday first discovered he was losing his job at SkyCity Casino when he heard about mass job cuts on the news. Photo / Michael Craig

In the next week, the number of people who have gone on to an unemployment benefit during the Covid crisis is likely to surpass Global Financial Crisis levels - around 65,000.

That unwanted milestone will be reached in fewer than four months. During the GFC, it took 21 months.

"There is a steadily rising second wave of job losses which are filtering through the economy," said Brad Olsen, a senior economist at Infometrics.

This wave of job losses was slower, he said, because of both the cautious optimism in the economy and the significant wage subsidy support still in place.

The rise in jobless support numbers was not surprising.


"We expected that as the main wage subsidy ended, there would be many businesses who went back to work, but downsized their workforce to meet the softer economic conditions we find ourselves in.

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"We also expected that there would be many businesses that didn't meet the 40 per cent revenue decline threshold but were still grappling with a hit to revenues which would see them lay off workers."

Olsen also said the jump in job losses had not been as immediate as initially feared - likely because of the wage subsidy extension.

Treasury predicted that 232,000 people would be on an unemployment benefit by the end of June. In reality, there were 205,278 New Zealanders on one of the two jobless support payments at the beginning of July.

However, with the extended wage subsidy still supporting 372,000 jobs, it is feared that jobless numbers could spike when it ends in September. MSD expects demand for jobless benefits to peak in January.

The rising number of people going on a benefit - in particular middle or higher income earners - has led to more scrutiny of how much beneficiaries are paid.

Focus: SkyCity has revealed the ‘incredibly difficult’ decision to slash 700 jobs as the Covid-19 fallout hits. Video / File

Welfare advocates have accused the Government of creating a two-tier welfare system by paying newly jobless $490 through the Covid relief payment while existing beneficiaries received around $250 a week.

Documents released through the Official Information Act last month showed that Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni has asked officials for advice on "options around general income adequacy of the income support system".


But that looks unlikely to lead to an immediate rise in core benefit payments.

When asked for further information by the Herald, Sepuloni said: "I have never shied away from the fact that we have more to do in the long term to address income adequacy."