“Grant Robertson is in full self-congratulation mode over today’s employment numbers, but the real unemployment rate is at least 6 per cent,” says ACT’s Welfare spokesperson Karen Chhour.

“The headline unemployment rate of 3.2 per cent equates to 93,000 people. Nobody – not even Grant Robertson – believes that is the real number.

“Almost 188,000 or 6 per cent of adults were receiving the Jobseeker Support benefit at the end of December. That is much closer to the reality.

“We have severe labour shortages and increasing benefit numbers. Why?

“People not searching for work don’t count as unemployed even if they’re receiving an unemployment benefit, and Labour is applying fewer sanctions to Jobseeker Support recipients who aren’t searching for work.

“The number of sanctions for failing to comply with obligations is plunging under Labour.

“Slowly but surely, Labour is transforming welfare in a way that will increase dependency – by making benefits more generous, removing obligations on welfare recipients, and spending less time trying to move beneficiaries back into work.

“Labour should drop the self-congratulation and ensure New Zealanders who are ready for work are actively encouraged back into the labour market.”