Australia’s economy contracted 0.3 per cent in the March quarter, according to official figures that mostly predate the economic damage from the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Gross domestic product grew just 1.4 per cent in the 12 months to March 31 as the economy took a hit from the bushfires and the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.

“This was the slowest through-the-year growth since September 2009 when Australia was in the midst of the global financial crisis and captures just the beginning of the expected economic effects of COVID-19,” ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman said.

Public demand contributed 0.3 per cent percentage points to GDP, driven by a 1.8 per cent rise in public spending as governments responded to the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Private demand subtracted 0.8 percentage points from GDP, driven mostly by a 1.1 per cent fall in household spending as air transport stopped and hotels, cafes and restaurants closed.


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