CANBERRA, AAP – Retail spending is back, one year after the first severe COVID-19 lockdowns.

Preliminary retail spending figures for April released on Friday show a 1.1 per cent surge, topping economists’ expectations of a 0.5 per cent rise.

Jobs growth, the wealth boost for home owners from rising house prices, and cheap credit are supporting confidence.

Strong improvement comes as no surprise compared to a low point for consumers in April 2020.

Australian turnover rose 25.1 per cent in April compared the same time last year.

April’s preliminary figures follow 1.3 per cent growth recorded by the ABS in March.

The rises were led by food retailing (1.5 per cent), following falls in February and March.

Cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (2.5 per cent) also rose.

By state, NSW and Victoria led with turnover rising in all areas except for department stores.

A lockdown in Western Australia in April saw a 1.5 per cent fall in that state.

But economists expect it to be difficult to sustain the retail recovery without growth in wages.

Just one-in-five consumers expect the “big-spending” federal budget will improve their finances over the next 12 months.

The latest wage figures released this week showing only 1.5 per cent growth in the year to March are also unlikely to inspire shoppers into an online frenzy or race to the malls.

However, the latest labour force figures did see the unemployment rate fall for a sixth consecutive month, hitting 5.5 per cent in April.

While overall employment fell by 30,600 in the month, mainly due to a sharp 64,400 drop in part-time workers, full-time staff increased by 33,800 to a record high.