JobKeeper officially over. So what now?
Jobkeeper is officially over – but what does that mean for the Australians and businesses that relied on the payments?
The unprecedented economic lifeline formally ended at midnight on March 28, ending 12 months of financial assistance to retain the links between employers and employees hurt most by COVID-19 restrictions.
In some sectors, employees were earning more under the scheme than they were under regular pre-COVID working conditions.
Some economists fear that now the economic life raft has been punctured, the businesses that relied upon the payments to keep staff on the books will lead to a cliff of Australians suddenly without work.
New figures from the Australian Tax Office show there were more than one million employees still relying on the wage subsidy at the end of January 2021.
Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy told a Senate Estimates hearing that he expects up to 150,000 jobs to be lost, but warned the senate that the forecast was not concrete.
"We believe that in the order of 100,000 to 150,000 JobKeeper recipients may lose employment at the completion of the program, though there is a wide band of uncertainty around this estimate," Mr Kennedy said.
Despite the predicted job losses, Dr Kennedy expects many of those people will find other work, meaning there won't be a significant rise in the unemployment rate.
"We could see a bump in the unemployment rate as the JobKeeper program comes to an end this month, perhaps through March/April," he added.
Australia's unemployment rate is currently 5.8 per cent, up slightly from where it was prior to the pandemic.
Many believe the JobKeeper payment prevented the unemployment rate by blowing out to double figures during the peak of the crisis, by keeping workers employed even when their sectors where largely shut down by restrictions.
At its peak, Australia's unemployment rate only hit 7.68 per cent.
It is estimated that JobKeeper in total cost the Australian taxpayer around $90 billion, making it the biggest fiscal package in history and one of the biggest relative spends by an Australian government since a world war.