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Most businesses expect virus impact: ABS

Almost half of Australia's businesses have already felt the impact of the coronavirus and four out of five expect to be hit in coming months.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics research released on Thursday came as big layoffs were announced by Virgin Australia, Flight Centre and Premier Investments, which owns retailer Smiggle and a range of clothing stores.

The ABS collected data from 3000 business in mid-March, pre-dating the first phase of the Morrison government's social distancing measures.

The most prevalent impact was felt in the accommodation and food services sector where over three-quarters of businesses have been affected, while just shy of 100 per cent anticipated impacts in coming months.

"closures" and "job losses" are the two major common themes drawn from the report.

"The pandemic is causing havoc across all industries," National Australia Bank economist Kaixin Owyong said in a note to clients.

The head of Virgin Australia says more than 1000 of 8000 workers asked to take leave in the face of the virus will probably be made redundant.

The airline has asked 80 per cent of its 10,000 staff to take a mixture of holiday leave, long service leave and leave without pay.

"Of the 8000 that we asked to stand down yesterday, there is probably going to be more than a 1000 of those we do make redundant," Virgin Australia managing director Paul Scurrah told the ABC on Thursday.

"This is the worst airline crisis the world has ever seen."

Virgin Australia is also looking to redeploy staff to other companies - including major supermarkets and big banks - that need staff during the pandemic

Meanwhile, Flight Centre has announced more than 3800 of its Australian travel agency staff would be temporarily stood down.

The company is slashing about 6000 support and sales role across the globe, either temporarily or permanently.

Premier is closing all its Australian stores - including Peter Alexander, Just Jeans and Jay Jays - for four weeks, impacting 9000 employees worldwide.

Thousands of workers in hospitality have been shown the door as businesses close down to curb the spread of COVID-19.

This has resulted in long queues outside Centrelink offices as people try to claim benefits.

Labor is calling on the government to bring forward support for workers and business as the number of jobseekers surges and more businesses close their doors.

The coronavirus supplement - paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight - will effectively double the JobSeeker payment - the former Newstart allowance.

But the supplement won't reach sacked workers until April 27.

The second payment won't be paid until July 10, while pensioners and families will have to wait 16 weeks for the payment.

Economists expect the unemployment rate to surge in the coming months, possibly as high as 11 per cent, as the economy suffers its first recession in nearly 30 years.

That would be more than double the 5.1 per cent rate recorded in February and the highest rate since 1993, when the economy was still suffering from the last recession.

© AAP 2020