Employment minister Michaelia Cash has warned there could be a huge spike in the number of unemployed Australians, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to smash parts of the economy.
New jobs data released by the Australian Bureau of Statics on Thursday showed the nation's unemployment rate remained steady at 5.1 per cent in February for the third consecutive month.
But the ABS warned the data was collected in the first half of February, when there were few cases in Australia and it was yet to be declared a global pandemic.
Senator Cash warned there would be businesses that would close and Australians would lose their jobs.
"The government is doing everything that it can to cushion the blow at this time, to get you through this period and ensure that we emerge stronger on the other side," she said.
Senator Cash said Treasury were "modelling a number of scenarios" on the impact of the virus, both for jobs and the broader economy.
Australia was coming from a "good economic base" but it would be no surprise to anyone that a "significant rise" in employment would occur, she said.
"We have been clear on this, businesses will close and there will be job losses. Our role as a government is to do the best we can by the Australian people to ensure that you are able to get through this crisis and emerge on the other side. That is certainly the package we are developing."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison again foreshadowed changes to Newstart or Jobseeker payments as part of its second stimulus package.
Mr Morrison said the government would shift tack from trying to push people off Jobseeker payments and into jobs, to supporting people over the next six months.
"We understand over the next six months, that is a certainly very different economy. When circumstances change, you need to adjust your packages to reflect that," Mr Morrison said.
It came as Qantas stood down 20,000 workers as it moved to suspend international flights from the end of March
Workers will have to draw on their annual and long service leave as the company tries to stay afloat
Senator Cash said people should be prepared to sacrifice their leave in order to ensure they still had a job in a few months time.
"As an employee, if you face losing your job versus being able to be stood down, utilise your leave requirements, bring forward your long service leave if you're able to, and maintain that connectivity with your employer knowing that you will have a job at the end of this, I think Australians do understand that that is the best course of action at this point in time," Senator Cash said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg meanwhile announced a $15 billion package to allow smaller lenders to continue lending to customers and small businesses.
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