The Australian economy needs to be weaned off government support to ensure there is a business-led recovery, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The federal opposition and welfare bodies have been critical of the move this week to reduce the level of the JobKeeper wage subsidy.
The subsidy is due to finish in March.
Mr Morrison said it was always going to be “temporary, targeted and proportionate” allowing workers to get through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, which sent Australia into recession.
He said thousands of businesses and over two million workers had “graduated” from JobKeeper back onto the regular payroll, with the government having spent $77 billion on it.
“The economy is regearing … it’s finding its own feet again,” Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to be careful the important supports we put in place during the worst of the pandemic then don’t hold back the business-led recovery on the other side.”
He compared the economic recovery to a hospital.
“It’s like coming out of the ICU and into the ward and then becoming an outpatient.”
The latest ANZ data shows job ads rose by 9.2 per cent in December to an 18-month high.
It meant job ads were up five per cent on the year and rebounded 98.3 per cent in the past eight months.
CommSec chief economist Craig James said the solid lift in hiring intentions should translate to higher employment in coming months, supporting spending.
“The economic recovery continues,” he said.
Meanwhile, the government has announced a plan to provide more workers for the agricultural sector, which has been hard hit by travel restrictions.
Student visa holders will be permitted to work more than the usual 40 hours per fortnight limit during semesters if they are working in the agriculture sector.
The Prime Minister also declined to rule out an election this year, but says his “one priority” for 2021 is getting the nation through the coronavirus pandemic.
There is speculation Mr Morrison could call a poll in the second half of the year.
The legal window for calling a House of Representatives and half-Senate election opens in August.
Asked on 3AW radio on Tuesday to rule out an election this year, Mr Morrison said it was “Canberra speculation”.
“I only have one priority this year and that is getting Australians through the pandemic,” he said.
“The election is not due until 2022 so I have enough to do in 2021.”
Mr Morrison said there were a number of other issues to be dealt with this year including mental health, aged care and “work on the recycling economy”.
The last election was held on May 18, 2019.
The government has consistently maintained its lead in he opinion polls having splashed cash to JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs to prop up what was a sluggish economy even before the corornvirus crisis.
Those benefits are now being withdrawn.