Coronavirus: Unemployment could be eased if employed over-65s retire - economist

As the economic impacts from COVID-19 continue to take a toll and with a rise in unemployment expected, an economist says Kiwis over-65 that are still in jobs could retire now to ease some of the pain.

Economist Tony Alexander's comments come as new figures released on Friday show about 40,000 New Zealanders have applied for the benefit since March 20.

Alexander told Magic Talk's Ryan Bridge on Friday it was expected some people would bring forward their retirement to help younger people in the workforce.

"Maybe it will help some of the younger people out there but again, they've got to choose to do that - it's their choice," he said.

"I think the trend overtime - over the past 20 or so years - is people are able to keep on working. There are jobs they can undertake.

"We have to realise the nature of employment opportunities out there these days is vastly different from decades in the past."

The latest Treasury figures show the number of Jobseeker Support beneficiaries reached 184,000 on May 1, which is about 6 percent of the estimated working-age population.

And that is expected to rise in the near future with the wage subsidy scheme due to come to an end in about a month.

Alexander said that over 65-year-olds may be the first to come forward for voluntary redundancy if it's sought.

"Many will be there [in jobs] because they still want to remain engaged and of course for the social engagement but - overseas we're seeing evidence that older people seeing that they are the ones heavily at risk from the virus are choosing to exit the workforce rather than increase their risk of getting sick by interacting with more people," he told Magic Talk.

Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said he expects several waves of job losses including now when many businesses are downsizing and a second wave when businesses run out of cash.

"Post-lockdown, we'll probably see a slight surge in spending - it's not like a normal recession where things keep falling away," he told Newshub last week.

"[After the] surge in level 3, level 2, we'll start to see the recession bite."