CANBERRA, AAP – The wild weather lashing the eastern states and ongoing concerns about the end of a key government support measure during the pandemic is weighing on people’s confidence.
The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index dropped 0.5 per cent, its second consecutive weekly decline.
The decline came despite last week’s unexpectedly strong employment figures and a steep drop in the jobless rate to 5.8 per cent.
“The torrential downpours and overflowing dams causing flash floods along parts of the east coast possibly dampened sentiment,” ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said.
The confidence index – a pointer to future household spending – saw sharp falls in both Brisbane and Sydney, of 5.9 per and 2.6 per cent respectively.
“Along with the harsh weather conditions, the JobKeeper program approaching its end may also be causing some apprehension,” Mr Plank said.
Last week’s decline in confidence was also blamed on worries over the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy next week.
The program has played a major part in shielding the economy from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concern is that its removal could see a renewed lift in the unemployment rate. Treasury estimates 100,000 people could join the dole queue.
“JobKeeper has been their lifeline. I’m really worried about what will happen, and that this will potentially stymie the recovery,” shadow assistant minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh told 2SM radio.
“There’s a lot of jobs on the line and if you go to places like Cairns, heavily dependent on international tourism.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has promised more targeted support measures from now on.
The Australian Hotels Association and Tourism Accommodation Australia have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, again calling for post-JobKeeper assistance given the dire situation they face.
“There’s no doubt the end of JobKeeper will create unnecessary hardship for those businesses upon which governments have imposed temporary, targeted restrictions to limit the gathering and movement of people to help save Australian lives,” AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson said.
“The fact remains that while keeping us all safe, these limitations come at tremendous cost to business owners and workers – costs which will continue after the temporary assistance measures like JobKeeper end.”
Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Michael Johnson said accommodation hotels in the major CBDs in particular were desperate for help until the vaccine rollout was complete.
“Hotels in the major CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne have occupancy rates below 35 per cent and are really struggling to retain skilled staff,” Mr Johnson said.
Tourism Minister Dan Tehan told parliament the government had paid out $91 million in grants to 2700 travel agents so far and talks were being held with industry to deliver $132 million in other forms of support.
As well, Qantas and Virgin had reported a 40 per cent rise in travel bookings ahead of a discounted air ticket program kicking in.