An unprecedented 2.7 million Australian workers have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with 600,000 jobs lost last month.
But the figures could have been far worse, the figures show, with the JobKeeper program stopping the official unemployment rate from blowing out to more than 11 per cent.
Employment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed nearly 594,300 Australians lost their job between March and April, with the unemployment rate rising 1 percentage point to 6.2 per cent.
The number of underemployed people increased by more than 600,000 to over 1.8 million people in April, an increase of almost 50 per cent.
Overall 2.7 million workers either lost their job, worked less hours or left the labour force in the month of April.
Young workers were hit particularly hard, with the youth unemployment rate rising from 11.5 to 13.8 per cent.
In the ACT, 8700 jobs were lost, with the unemployment rate at 4.2 per cent.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was "a tough day for Australia".
"[It is] terribly shocking but not unanticipated," Mr Morrison said.
He warned Australian to brace for further shocks in the months ahead.
However the Jobkeeper wage subsidy appeared to have softened the economic shock considerably.
The ABS data showed if people who had been stood down or had no work were counted as unemployed, the rate of unemployment would have been 11.7 per cent - a rise of 6.2 points between March and April.
University of Melbourne professor of economics Jeff Borland said that unemployment rate mirrored that at the depths of the 1980s and 1990s recessions.
Professor Borland said there had never been losses like it in terms of the speed and the scale.
"During the recession 80s and 90s, we lost 6 per cent of the number of hours worked in about 18 months. We've lost 9.2 per cent in one month," Professor Borland said.
However based on these numbers, Professor Borland believed the job losses may not be quite as steep as the initial forecasts.
"These numbers give me some hope that if the opening up proceeds smoothly, we may have succeeded in limiting the damage in terms of how bad it's going to get," Professor Borland said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Treasury forecasts remained for unemployment to reach around 10 per cent.
"Importantly, Treasury have also said, but for the JobKeeper program it would be 15 per cent," Mr Frydenberg said.
"The median market expectation for unemployment today was at 8.2 per cent. So it has come at a significantly reduced number to that."
More than six million workers from 860,000 businesses are now enrolled in the Jobkeeper program.
However Labor's Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers said the job losses were higher than they needed to be because of the exclusions in the Jobkeeper program.
"Unemployment will be higher for longer because the government is bungling the implementation of the wage subsidies," Dr Chalmers said.
Mr Morrison did not rule out extending the $130 billion Jobkeeper scheme, saying it was a "demand driven" program.
However at $20 billion per month, he said it was a heavy load for taxpayers to bear.
Meanwhile Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said mutual obligations for people receiving the JobSeeker payment would continue to be paused until June 1, and would continue to be reviewed.
Until the COVID-19 crisis hit the economy, job seekers receiving a welfare payment faced having their payment suspended if they weren't undertaking job searches, training or contact with their job search provider.
Any decisions about whether mutual obligations would be re-introduced would be informed by the national cabinet and the restrictions that are in place at the time, Senator Cash said.
She said mutual obligations would be introduced gradually, and at first would be only an expectation to make contact with job providers, and no penalties or suspensions would be applied.
The second phase would include more appointments and requirements to apply for a certain number of jobs and the third phase would include the reintroduction of penalties.
- with Sally Whyte