Simon Bridges says more Kiwis are on the unemployment benefit because the Government has eased up on sanctions on beneficiaries.
As of June, the Ministry of Social Development reported there were 122,513 Kiwis receiving Jobseeker Support. A year earlier, it was 118,776.
"That is a result of the sanctions, the penalties, the obligations coming off," the National Party leader told The AM Show on Monday morning.
But it's the second consecutive yearly increase - the June 2017 figures, the last while National still led the Government, were an increase on 2016, when 117,954 were receiving the benefit.
Unemployment overall is at 4.2 percent - up from 4.1 percent the same time last year.
The Labour-NZ First coalition has removed, or is in the process of removing, many of the penalties introduced by National. Figures released earlier this month showed a 22 percent reduction in sanctions in the past 12 months. Mr Bridges has vowed to crack down again, should he lead the next Government.
Those sanctions apply not just to people on the Jobseeker Support benefit, but also solo mothers and others getting assistance.
There was a 3.4 percent drop in people on the Sole Parent Support benefit - from 60,631 to 58,558 - between June last year and June this year.
The overall number of people receiving benefits in June was up 0.4 percent year-on-year, but down 4.3 percent since December, according to data from the Ministry of Social Development.
Mr Bridges says while unemployment remains low, he predicts that won't last thanks to the Government's policies around oil and gas, irrigation, industrial relations, immigration and overseas investment.
"We are seeing the numbers go up."
Watch the full interview above.
The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.