Coronavirus: Up to 120,000 Kiwis predicted to lose jobs - economist

An economist is predicting up to 120,000 Kiwis could lose their jobs due to COVID-19 with a 'second wave' of unemployment about to hit.

An economic analysis for Newshub by Infometrics shows the 'first wave' of unemployment is over - it happened during lockdown - and about 40,000 lost their jobs over a month. But now New Zealand is entering a second wave that could be longer and bigger - nearly 80,000 jobs could be lost in the space of 10 weeks from June to August, economist Brad Olsen says.

He told Newshub he's worried about the future of employment for Kiwis.

"I don't think anybody knows where the jobs are. They just aren't out there."

A large number of the predicted affected people are on the Government's wage subsidy, which will start finishing up for some very soon. About 44,000 lose that safety net this week, rising to over 415,000 the week after. It will eventually reach a total of 1.65 million.

Olsen's figure of 80,000 losing their job in the second wave is based on just 5 percent of those people losing their jobs.

There's an extension to the wage subsidy coming, but businesses need to prove a 40 percent revenue reduction due to COVID-19 to be eligible. They also need to commit to keeping their employees - meaning many are making the hard decisions now.

"The number of redundancies in the last week or two has started to be much higher than we have seen previously," Olsen says.

His tally of publicly notified job cuts during May hit 8300. But that's just the tip of the iceberg - it was just companies big enough to hit the headlines.

Air New Zealand logistics employee Lance Muaiava told Newshub he's spent 25 years building up his corporate career, but now he only has two weeks left in his role and will become part of 'the new jobless'.

"I love working… I can't imagine myself not working at all."

He's the son of Samoan immigrants and was the first in his family to go to university.

"Their dream was to make a better life for the rest of us. And the payback was going to uni and getting a good job."

This dream was torn apart by the economic fallout from COVID-19.

Muaiava says he was initially reluctant to talk about his employment situation.

"I was too embarrassed to tell my story in front of television. I've been struggling for the last three or four weeks just trying to find a role.

"I even applied for one where there was 126 applicants - got down to the last three."

That's all he wants - another job.

"I think I deserve a crack at anything that is going out there."

But Olsen predicts the second wave might not be the end of the pain. 

"We may well see a third wave of unemployment coming before the end of the year," he says.

The economic reckoning is well and truly here.