Labour leader David Cunliffe says a government he leads would get unemployment down to 4 per cent by the end of its first term.

It currently stands at 6 per cent, or 147,000 according to the official measure, the Household Labour Force Survey.

Mr Cunliffe also reiterated Labour's pledge to run surpluses as National is planning to do, unless faced with another global downturn or domestic disaster.

The pledge to get the employment rate to 4 per cent would mean 20,000 fewer unemployed people, based on today's employment statistics.


Treasury's most recent projections for the unemployment rate for the years ended June 2017 is 5.2 per cent and for 2018 it is 5.1 per cent, but revised projections will be announced on Thursday in Bill English's sixth Budget.

Speaking to reporters at Parliament, Mr Cunliffe said when Labour was last in government, the party had got unemployment as low as 3.5 per cent and achieved average unemployment of 3.9 per cent for five years.

"We did it then and we'll do it again because Labour is the party of jobs.''

He acknowledged that National would be getting the books back into surplus on Thursday and said getting the books in order was important.

"But we also know that New Zealanders want more from their government than tidy book-keeping.''

"The Budget is more about numbers - it's about people.''

The Government would try to tell the country that the surplus meant their economic management had been a success, Mr Cunliffe said.

"They will ask us to ignore the stagnant wages of most working families. They will ask us to turn a blind eye to the soaring costs of living at the supermarket, in our power bills and in our mortgages and rents.''