“Weekly job data is subject to considerable volatility but it’s pretty safe to conclude that the Australian market fell off a precipice last week,” he said.
“We know we have gone over the cliff. It’s a matter of just how far we fall and how long it takes to turn things around.”
Centrelink has been inundated by tens of thousands of Australians seeking financial support as businesses shut their doors in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
On Wednesday, Virgin Australia said it was standing down 8000 of its 10,000 strong workforce while cutting 90 per cent of its domestic network.
The Star Entertainment Group followed soon after, saying it was standing down the bulk of its 8100 workforce because of closures to its food, beverage, conferencing and gaming facilities.
Mr Olivier said there were already signs in early March that job ads were starting to slow but the third week of the month showed a near total collapse.
Analysts are warning unemployment is likely to spike in coming months. Westpac, which last week was tipping a jobless rate of 7 per cent, now believes it will reach 11.1 per cent by the end of June with up to 814,000 people likely to lose their jobs.
The current jobless rate sits at 5.1 per cent.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that while there was enormous short-term economic pain, the country would bounce back.
“This virus will end. It will stop at some point. It will wreak enormous damage between now and that point,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“But on the other side, we want businesses to be able to open their doors and get back about their business, employ their staff back, see their customers again and to support them in the recovery.”
Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.