Not everyone is joining in on an apparent burst of confidence as the nation recovers from the doldrums of the COVID-19 recession.

Confidence, as measured by the Westpac-Melbourne Institute monthly consumer sentiment survey, struck a seven-year high in November, an encouraging sign for retailers as they prepare for the peak Christmas shopping season.

But separate research found 1.8 million Australian workers have suffered either severe or moderate financial stress in 2020, a figure that is likely to worsen as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll.

The AMP 2020 financial wellness report found 50 per cent of all Australians reported some level of stress about their finances.

Of the 1.8 million people reporting heightened levels of stress, nearly half have been impacted for an average of six and a half years or more.

AMP calculated the cost to the economy is $30.9 billion annually due to employee distraction and absenteeism.

One in five female employees reported severe or moderate levels of financial stress, almost double the figure recorded for male workers.

“Australians continue to suffer the debilitating effects of financial stress, which is taking a huge personal toll on mental and physical wellbeing, particularly for younger women and single parents,” AMP director of workplace super Ilaine Anderson said.

“While COVID-19 is understandably creating significantly more anxiety for those directly impacted and blurring work and home life, the research shows that financial stress remains a systemic issue in Australian society.”

AMP modelling suggests the stress impact of the pandemic could drain the economy of a further $4.4 billion.

The research found 42 per cent of employees believe their finances have been negatively impacted by the pandemic through business and employment disruption.

Only one in 10 Australians, whose employment or business have not been impacted or benefited through COVID-19, are reporting a positive impact on their financial stress levels.

National Australia Bank chief economist Alan Oster warns the economic outlook will remain “bumpy”.

NAB is predicting the September quarter national accounts due in early December will show the economy expanding by three per cent after the steep seven per cent contraction in June quarter.

However, future quarters are not so clear.

“We have still got the issue about what is going to happen as some of things like JobKeeper, etcetera, fade way and also as unemployment goes up,” he said in a NAB podcast update on its economic forecasts.

Like Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia, NAB is expecting the jobless rate to peak at eight per cent, although not until next year.

Treasury and the RBA expect unemployment to peak in December.