International and state economies during the September quarter 2021


International comparisons

The economic impact of COVID-19 continued to diverge across countries over the September quarter 2021. GDP for a number of OECD economies remained below pre-pandemic levels, despite growth over the quarter. For Australia, GDP fell to below pre-pandemic levels after several regions were adversely impacted by lockdown restrictions. Out of the 27 OECD countries that have released September quarter results, Australia ranked 17th in GDP growth from December 2019 (pre-COVID) levels.

Data from, 26 November 2021, in seasonally adjusted volume measures.

Australian state economies and mobility

In Australia, the September quarter was marked by extended lockdowns across New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory, as well as several short lockdowns in the Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australia.

Google mobility data tracks how visits and length of stay at various locations have changed relative to pre-pandemic mobility. Figure 2 shows the changes in mobility to retail and recreation locations as the stringency of state COVID-19 containment measures changed over June to September.

Mobility data shown as weekly averages. Data from: Google LLC "Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports". Accessed: 15/10/2021.

Increased restrictions across NSW, Victoria and the ACT were put in place following outbreaks of COVID-19 cases. These restrictions resulted in a dramatic decrease in mobility compared to the June quarter. Mobility in these regions began recovering towards the end of the quarter as vaccination targets were reached and limitations on movements were eased. In states with shorter lockdowns, such as South Australia and Queensland, mobility recovered quickly as lockdowns were lifted.

In regions where mobility was restricted due to lockdowns, the amount of time people spent at home increased. Figure 3 shows how retail and recreation mobility and time spent at residential places changed over the September quarter.

Household spending and mobility

The lower levels of retail and recreation mobility in states and territories with extended lockdowns coincided with a large fall in household consumption in September quarter. Large falls in household spending were recorded in NSW, Victoria, and the ACT as non-essential retail stores were closed and restrictions on gatherings were imposed. In South Australia, mobility recovered quickly following a one-week lockdown in July and household spending recorded a small rise. All other states and territories had increases in mobility and recorded commensurate rises in household consumption. Mobility and household spending for each state and territory, from June to the September quarter, is shown in Figure 4.

Household consumption in seasonally adjusted volume measures.

The lockdown restrictions in NSW, Victoria, and the ACT during the quarter significantly reduced consumption opportunities for households, particularly for discretionary goods and services. Spending on essential items also fell, but by a much smaller magnitude. Figure 5 shows the contribution of discretionary and essential consumption to growth in total household consumption this quarter.

a. Household consumption in seasonally adjusted volume measures.

b. Contributions may not be additive due to rounding.

One consequence of the increased time spent at home was a substitution away from dining out towards preparing and consuming meals in the home. In the states and territories which experienced prolonged lockdown restrictions during the September quarter, purchases of food and alcohol for consumption at home rose with increased time spent at home, while expenditure on hotels, cafes and restaurants declined strongly (figure 6).

Consumption categories in seasonally adjusted volume measures.

The COVID-19 outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and the ACT also led to the reclosure of state borders and subsequent declines in domestic tourism. This is reflected in sharp declines in transit station mobility and transport services consumption across most states over the quarter (figure 7).

Transport services consumption in seasonally adjusted volume measures.