More than 2.1 million workers have left the JobKeeper wage assistance scheme, which Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said showed growing strength in Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

New Tax Office figures showed 1.54 million workers remained on JobKeeper at the end of 2020 – down from 3.6 million in September 2020 – while about 520,000 companies have stopped receiving the payments as their trade recovers.

As it prepares to wind up JobKeeper at the end of next month, the government highlighted falling participation in regions reliant on tourism. JobKeeper enrolments, when comparing December with September, fell 72 per cent in Townsville, 66 per cent on the Sunshine Coast and 59 per cent on the Gold Coast,

Labor and trade unions want JobKeeper extended beyond March 28, which has been ruled out by Mr Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The government has instead promised significant support for the tourism sector. Cairns has seen a 55 per cent drop off in JobKeeper recipients, but about 16,600 people have received the payment in the second phase, which began at the end of September.

Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has seen a drop in enrolments of about 41 per cent, while the NSW Central Coast and Coffs Harbour regions both saw declines of more than 65 per cent.

Western Australia led state totals for drops in enrolments between phase one and phase two, with a fall of 70 per cent statewide.

Of the 1.5 million employees on JobKeeper 2.0 in the month of December 2020, about 87 per cent or 1.3 million people, were on tier 1 payments of $1200 per fortnight.

The government is pointing to drops in JobKeeper recipients across a range of industries. Wholesale trade enrolments were down 71 per cent, ahead of retail trade at 68 per cent.

Accommodation and food services enrolments were down 52 per cent, education and training were down 50 per cent and construction 48 per cent.

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