Coronavirus

We cannot 'get ahead of the medical advice': Treasurer admits economic challenges as jobless rate predicted to hit 10 per cent

The federal government's coronavirus supplement will be cut by $300 from 25 September. Source: AAP

Unemployed Australians could face a long wait to get back into the workforce with treasurer Josh Frydenburg saying he is not expecting the unemployment rate to bounce back during the crisis.

The Australian government will not move ahead of the medical advice despite restrictions having a big impact on the economy.

"To do so would be dangerous and unrealistic", Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told a press conference on Tuesday.

“The medical advice has serviced Australia well and Australians expect us to be implementing measures that reflect that advice.

“So, over time, once we get to the recovery phase and restrictions are eased, at that point you will see more people come back into the workforce.”

But as for when people can return, the Treasurer admitted it will depend on the health advice.

"That will depend to some extent the health restrictions are in place," he said.

Earlier it was revealed Australia's jobless rate was tipped to nearly double to 10 per cent for the June quarter because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to new Treasury analysis.

Treasury also estimated the unemployment figure could have hit 15 per cent without the $130 billion JobKeeper payment.

"The JobKeeper package is providing an economic lifeline to millions of Australians," Mr Frydenberg said.

In February, before the pandemic led to major shutdowns and mass standdowns of workers, the jobless rate was 5.1 per cent.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says more than 800,000 Australian businesses have registered for the JobKeeper payment.

"Every arm of government and industry is working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business," he said.

"The economic shock facing the global economy from the coronavirus is far more significant than what was seen during the global financial crisis."

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg
AAP

But Australia continued to hold its AAA credit rating, one of only ten countries to do so, Mr Frydenberg said.

Australians will get the first taste of what the pandemic has meant for unemployment when March labour force figures are released on Thursday.

Economists' forecasts centre on an unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent for March, compared with 5.1 per cent in February.

Predictions range as high as 5.9 per cent, a level not seen since early 2016.

Mr Frydenberg on Sunday warned Australians to expect a significant rise in the unemployment rate alongside a big reduction in the rate of economic growth as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

"That's a reflection of the queues we have seen outside Centrelink and that is the reflection of the health restrictions that have had a severe economic impact," he told the ABC's Insiders television program.

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