CANBERRA, AAP – More than half a million companies and two million workers have shifted off the JobKeeper wage subsidy since the end of September, new figures show.
The struggle of many businesses especially in tourism and hospitality is expected to be a focus of federal parliament which sits for a fortnight starting on Monday, with Labor calling for an extension of JobKeeper beyond its March end date.
However, in a preemptive strike, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has released tax office data showing around 520,000 firms and 2.13 million employees have left JobKeeper since the end of September.
As of December, 1.54 million people were supported by the program, down from 3.6 million recorded in the month of September.
“With our economic recovery well under way, we have more than half a million businesses employing more than two million Australians graduating off JobKeeper,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“These improvements have been broad based across the country and we have seen encouraging signs across all sectors.”
JobKeeper registrations between the first phase (April to September) and second phase (October to December) were down in: retail trade (68 per cent), accommodation and food services (52 per cent), education and training (50 per cent), wholesale trade (71 per cent) and construction (48 per cent).
And there were marked falls across regions, among the most successful for JobKeeper “graduation” being: Barossa (74 per cent), Bunbury (74 per cent), Townsville (72 per cent), Launceston (69 per cent) and Coffs Harbour (69 per cent).
Mr Frydenberg said 785,000 jobs had been created in the past seven months and the government would continue its support through tax cuts, business incentives, the JobMaker hiring credit and skills and training spending.
The Reserve Bank is expecting the jobless rate has peaked and forecasting it to reach six per cent by the end of this year and around 5.25 per cent by mid-2023.
The unemployment rate has dropped from 7.5 per cent in July to 6.6 per cent in December.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus says the education, tourism and manufacturing sectors continue to be “smashed” by the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we say is JobKeeper should be extended for those businesses that are still affected by the coronavirus, through no fault of their own,” she told the ABC on Sunday.
The support should continue “for as long as the pandemic is with us,”, she said.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says the government not only has to focus on supporting businesses through the pandemic, but deal with the broader issues of stagnant wages, underemployment and job insecurity.
“It’s not a recovery if it’s built on the back of less secure work, or weaker wages growth.”