Australian shares are tipped for sharp early losses as global equities sour and a likely bleak unemployment figure looms.

The SPI200 futures contract was down 122 points, or 2.23 per cent, at 5,340.0 points at 0800 AEST on Thursday, suggesting local stocks will follow Wall Street lower as concerns mount over the coronavirus fallout.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.86 per cent to 23,504.35, the S&P 500 lost 2.20 per cent to 2,783.36, and the Nasdaq dropped 1.44 per cent, to 8,393.18 overnight as dismal economic data and first-quarter earnings reports sent investors scurrying.

The local jobless rate is tipped to rise from 5.1 per cent to 5.4 per cent in figures due to be released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics at 1130 AEST.

Economists say the March jobs drop could be the tip of the iceberg as widespread COVID-19 shutdowns and social restrictions were not implemented until the second half of the month, meaning the April data will be worse again.

The IMF forecasts unemployment to rise to an average of 7.6 per cent in 2020 and 8.9 per cent in 2021.

Treasury has forecast the economic shock of the virus will see Australia’s unemployment rate hit 10 per cent in the June quarter, leaving 1.4 million people out of work.

Treasury said rate could have tripled to 15 per cent were it not for the government’s $130 billion wage subsidy scheme.

Oil and gold prices have fallen while copper also took a hit overnight.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index finished Wednesday down 21.4 points, or 0.39 per cent, to 5,466.7 points.

The Australian dollar was buying 63.23 US cents at 0800 AEST, up from 63.54 US cents at the close of markets on Wednesday.