Unemployment would rise to about 10 per cent in the June quarter, a faster rise than in the Great Depression, Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy has told a Senate inquiry.
"Unemployment rose to higher levels in the Great Depression but it did that over the course of a couple of years," he said, speaking at an inquiry into the coronavirus response on Tuesday.
"These movements are happening in just a couple of months. We have never seen an economic shock of this speed, magnitude and shape."
Treasury officials told a hearing more than 540,000 businesses had enrolled for the government JobKeeper wage subsidy by Monday afternoon, covering about 3.3 million workers.
When the government announced its wage subsidy, of $1500 a fortnight for workers in all businesses impacted by the coronavirus downturn, it said about six million workers would be covered.
Dr Kennedy said numbers were "broadly on track" for the expected number of businesses and workers covered, but "we will wait and see".
The scheme had required businesses to pay workers $3000 by this Thursday to be eligible, but the timing for the first payments has now been extended to May 8.
He said the virus was having an unprecedented impact on economies, far outstripping the global financial crisis. In the global financial crisis, gross domestic product of advanced economies fell 4 per cent. The coronavirus had seen Chinese gross domestic product fell 9.8 per cent in the March quarter and United States jobless claims rose by 26 million people in recent weeks and Europe recorded its sharpest monthly fall in surveyed business activity and employment on record.
In Australia, jobs in accommodation and food fell 26 per cent, and arts and recreation 19 per cent over just three weeks from mid March.
But Dr Kennedy said a wider range of businesses had been able to remain open in Australia than elsewhere - including in construction, manufacturing and mining.
The government's $320 billion stimulus and support package amounted to about 10 per cent of GDP and were bigger than any support package provided by a government in 50 years.
About $10 billion had been distributed over the past three weeks, with about $30 billion expected over May.
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