While there will not be another quarterly release of benefit numbers prior to the election, limited weekly reporting continues and is showing an alarming trend.
Because there is a seasonal component to benefit number fluctuations it is crucial to compare like with like. In the ten week period to September 15, 2023 the number of people on a main benefit has risen by 6,768 or almost two percent, whereas in the ten week period ending September 16, 2022 the numbers were virtually flat with a very small decrease of 141 recipients.
The finance minister Grant Robertson continues to insist the economy is in good shape. This real time indicator would strongly suggest otherwise.
85 percent of the increase is in Jobseeker Support. In turn, over a third of the increased Jobseeker Support is in those receiving Jobseeker/Health Condition or Disability.
These are people who could be working if they could access health treatments.
The detail about the nature of their health conditions is not provided in weekly updates but quarterly trends point to psychological/psychiatric conditions playing a large part.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins claimed in the TV1 leaders debate that the health system is not in crisis. He also constantly boasts about "record low unemployment".
Make of it what you will.
But these numbers don't lie and in the past ten weeks thousands more have lost jobs or become too sick to work.
It must be deeply upsetting for them to hear the Prime Minister willfully ignoring their plight; indeed, denying their very existence.
Lindsay Mitchell blogs here