Treasury has released the figures from phase one of JobKeeper, covering the first six months of the program, with payments to the retail sector covering 323,900 employees, for a total of $6.3 billion.

That was spread across 64,400 individual entities. Treasury estimates that 35.7% of pre-Covid businesses in the retail sector received JobKeeper.

As the first six-months of JobKeeper only required businesses to project a 30% (or 50%) decline in turnover, many of the businesses receiving the payments turned out to not meet that threshold, Treasury has noted in its report.

The retail sector was one of the better-performing sectors of the economy, with many businesses not suffering the forecasted decline, including Harvey Norman, which ended up increasing sales year-on-year.

From the retail businesses that applied for JobKeeper, less than half (43%) suffered a turnover decline of more than 30% between April and June 2020.

Some 28% of retail businesses on JobKeeper increased turnover during the period, accounting for roughly a quarter (23%) of the $2.23 billion the sector received in the first three months of JobKeeper.

Only 29% of businesses in retail experienced the predicted turnover decline during the period.

The decline numbers were fairly similar through the June-September quarter, with 40% experiencing a turnover decline of more than 30%.

However, more businesses were back to profit in that period as the economy picked up a bit of pace, with almost half (40%) increasing turnover while receiving JobKeeper payments. Those businesses received 39% of the $2.73 billion paid out in that quarter.

And only one in five retail businesses receiving JobKeeper during that period experienced a turnover decline of 30% or higher.

In an executive summary on the data, Treasury says, “A mechanism to claw back payments from businesses that performed better than expected was not included, reflecting a desire to avoid any disincentives for businesses to adapt and recover.

“The introduction of such a mechanism would likely have reduced the overall level of activity and muted the recovery.

“At the time of the JobKeeper review in June 2020, it was judged appropriate to maintain JobKeeper in its current form for a further three months, even though there was evidence some businesses that were initially heavily impacted were showing signs of recovery.”

Between April 2020 to March 2021, a total of $88.8 billion was spent through the JobKeeper program.