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CANBERRA, AAP – Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believes most people will be off the JobKeeper program by the end of March, making it no longer fit for purpose.

He says new preliminary data from the Australian Taxation Office indicates there were about 140,000 fewer businesses on the wage subsidy program in January compared to the previous month, and nearly 600,000 fewer individuals.

Treasury now expects the number of people relying on the payment in the March quarter to be about 1.1 million, a reduction of 200,000 compared to the 1.3 million estimated in the mid-year budget review released in December.

“Of the 1.1 million in the March quarter, we are expecting the majority to remain in their existing jobs following the conclusion of the program,” Mr Frydenberg told an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry conference in Canberra on Wednesday.

“While JobKeeper has been a remarkable program, it is no longer fit for purpose post-March.”

He concedes the transition from JobKeeper will be difficult with some businesses needing to adjust and workers having to seek out more sustainable roles.

“But it is one that can be managed,” he said.

He said the next stage will need to target those that require support whilst not getting in the way of the broader economic recovery.

“Over the coming weeks we’ll have more to say on targeted support for various sectors and industries.”