The number of people receiving Jobseeker benefits in the Bay of Plenty has jumped by more than 2600 between April and June, new figures show.
Recruitment agencies say there are still opportunities in some sectors but business leaders believe there could be more job losses when the wage subsidy ends on September 1.
Figures from the Ministry of Social Development show there were 15,514 beneficiaries collecting Jobseeker support from April to June compared to 12,835 the quarter before.
The numbers had reached a five-year high, according to the ministry's latest data.
MSD regional commissioner Mike Bryant said the region traditionally had "changeable employment levels".
"Industries like hospitality and kiwifruit picking and packing tend to employ people for limited periods depending on customer demand."
Undeniably, Bryant said Covid-19 had caused a spike in the number of people receiving benefits and the ministry had met "unprecedented" demand.
However, Bryant said ministry staff and a range of employers and industry were working to connect people back into employment.
"Last month we were successful in supporting 871 people into employment in the Bay of Plenty."
At present, there were 446 vacancies listed across the region in a variety of roles from administration to horticulture, Bryant said.
"We encourage people to take up these opportunities as it can be a stepping stone to other types of work and can lead to full-time work."
A phone-based initiative, the Rapid Return to Work programme, which supports people to get work-ready had also been established, he said.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said he had absolutely no doubt more people would lose their jobs, but believed the region had got through the Covid-19 pandemic better than anticipated.
"We're in the eye of the storm and we got through the first part of it damn well, but we've still got to get out of it and that might take a bit of time and a lot of hard work.
"And it might get a lot worse."
Heard knew the end of the wage subsidy would have a big impact but believed it had created breathing space for businesses and saved jobs.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley also pointed to those who were on the wage subsidy.
"In addition to those seeking MSD benefits, there are also thousands being supported by the wage subsidies and other workers who are now working fewer hours than they would like.
"The number one issue for September's general election will be keeping Kiwis employed post-lockdown."
Rotorua-based Personnel Resources recruitment consultant Ashlyn Clarricoats said most businesses were looking for staff in some capacity, but the biggest increase was from health-related businesses.
"There certainly is lots of competition in the market at the moment and with more people returning to New Zealand, this could grow.
"We know the wage subsidy has helped lots of businesses through these tough times but know there is still a lot of unknowns going forward for many."
The $11.9 billion scheme, introduced in March and extended in June was due to cut-off on September 1 although those businesses that were significantly affected may be eligible for an extension.
The scheme paid businesses $585.50 per week for each full-time employee if the business suffered a 40 per cent loss of revenue within a month due to Covid-19.
Clarricoats said she had seen an increase in jobs this month and had been working "huge hours" to keep up with the workload.
"We are finding businesses are starting to gain confidence again which is great. We are actively recruiting for accounting, HR, business analyst and accounts-based roles to name a few."
In Tauranga, 1st Call Recruitment managing director Phill Van Syp said manufacturing, construction and infrastructure was an area he was extremely busy in, which he believed was thanks to the Government's effort in shovel-ready projects.
"That's quite a buoyant market really and we have a lot of forecasts for more work so there seems to be a lot of positivity for most of our clients.
"There are ones that are struggling but definitely on an overall score basis, we definitely are at the positive range versus a negative."
He said more companies had temporary positions available due to the climate and the permanent positions were being filled quickly.
However, the reality was more people would be made redundant once the wage subsidy ended especially in the tourism sector and hospitality, Van Syp said.
Rotorua National MP and Opposition spokesman for trade Todd McClay said he was worried about what would happen when the wage subsidy ended next month.
"That's why it's crucial we have a strong economic plan to grow the economy and support businesses to thrive and take on new people."
But more troubling was the growing number on the Jobseeker benefit. McClay said it was "hugely concerning" when there was "so much potential in our region".
"Most people would agree that those who are able to work are much better off in the workforce.
"With unemployment increasing even before the outbreak of Covid-19, it shows this Government lacks the policies needed to stimulate new jobs."
However, Waiariki Labour MP Tamati Coffey said he was confident his electorate would see the steps the Government had taken to achieve the opposite of McClay's claim.
"To support the effects of strong population growth, we announced over $1.5 billion into the Western Bay of Plenty, backing local iwi-led projects, roads, schools and training programmes, to stimulate sustainable jobs."
Along with this, Coffey said there were also Aotearoa-wide initiatives such as the wage subsidy and free apprenticeships.
In June, the Government announced it would pay employers who take on apprentices up to $16,000 for the first two years, alongside scrapped apprenticeship fees.
"You can see while we won't save every job, we are working in partnership with Māori and our regions to try to do just that."