June spending likely fell, worse to come

New retail spending figures will give a taste of things to come as Australia’s virus outbreak extends to three states, forcing non-essential shops to close.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will issue its preliminary retail trade figures for June on Wednesday.

Economists’ forecasts centre on a 0.4 per cent decline, wiping out the 0.4 per cent gain seen in May, although some believe it could be as much as a one per cent drop.

The data will cover the full impact from last month’s Victorian COVID-19 lockdown.

Sales for July are likely to be even weaker, clobbered by earlier snap lockdowns in Brisbane, Darwin and Perth, as well as the now lengthy restrictions in Greater Sydney. 

The nation’s largest city is in lockdown until at least July 30, while this month’s fifth Victorian lockdown – that was initially planned for five days – has been extended for another week.

Add to that a week-long shutdown in South Australia and it’s of little wonder economists are predicting the economy will fall into contraction in the September quarter.

The Greater Sydney lockdown also includes the closure of construction sites, the first time such a measure has been included.

“If the pause goes beyond July 30, it could bring smaller contractors to their knees due to cashflow issues,” Australian Constructors Association CEO Jon Davies warned.

Consumer confidence has fallen by its biggest weekly margin since the early stages of the pandemic last year with widespread falls across the nation, a further worry for those retailers that remain open.

Economists estimate the current spate of lockdowns could cost the economy as much as $10 billion.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index is also released on Wednesday, which will give a guide to how the economy might perform in the next three to nine months.

Westpac economists are already predicting the September quarter national accounts could see the economy shrinking by 0.7 per cent.

It would be the first contraction since the depths of last year’s recession.

The National Skills Commission will also issue its final report for skilled vacancies for June.

Its preliminary figures showed job advertisements posted on the internet fell 0.5 per cent in the month, the first decline since the pandemic low point in April 2020.

However, jobs ads were still 43.8 per cent higher than their pre-pandemic levels.   


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