The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) in Whanganui is set to take on an additional 40 staff as part of a new contact centre.
"The establishment of the new operation from MSD's existing premises at 153 St Hill St will deliver telephone support and processing of multiple services to people right across New Zealand," MSD regional commissioner Gloria Campbell said.
Forty full-time staff will work from the site from July 1, with jobs currently being advertised.
"We're looking for people who have a good sense of empathy with others, integrity and a great phone manner," Campbell said. "If they're bilingual that's even better.
"We're reaching out to those people from the retail or travel sectors who might be displaced at this time. These are areas that are transferable to the role of a case manager."
The new Whanganui team will play a role in connecting job seekers to the labour market and supporting local businesses with their recruitment needs in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. This could be done as either out-bound or in-bound calling and include recruitment campaigns.
"We're anticipating a significant increase in demand on all our services, particularly job-search and recruitment but also income support and housing," Campbell said.
"We've made changes to how we provide support to clients and our employers and we're making enhancements to our technology capabilities to make it easier."
That would include more appointments over the phone and being able to provide documents online rather than dropping them off, which would allow more time to focus on the priority of supporting people to find work, Campbell said.
"It is great that this investment is being made in Whanganui and we get to deliver our services nationally from the region."
Whanganui & Partners board chairman Pahia Turia said he thought there would be a significant increase in the number of people looking for work and social support in the current climate.
"Historically, we've had these call centres based out of the larger places like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch," Turia said.
"It's heartening to see the Government putting some consideration into getting these places back out into the provinces.
"I definitely think 40 new jobs and the money they bring will be a boost of confidence for the local economy, and we need everything we can get at the moment."
Turia said that when the Government's wage subsidy initiative came to end a lot of businesses would still have to make decisions about making staff redundant.
"I've dealt with a number of people who have never been unemployed in their lives, and all of a sudden they've been made redundant.
"For them having to navigate that space is a challenge.
"All indications are that this will be worse than the global financial crisis, and could even be worse than the Great Depression.
"All we can do is remain optimistic and we have to be prepared for any situation."
Whanganui Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Sue Stuart said the chamber welcomed MSD's announcement.
"This will boost our economy, business confidence and community resilience," Stuart said.
"These jobs will provide income stability with an employer that prioritises workplace training and support within its diverse workforce. It's great news all round for Whanganui."