Lockdowns cause Australian economy to shrink

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Lockdowns and border controls shrank Australia’s economy by 1.9 percent in the third quarter, official statistics showed Wednesday, a decline more modest than expected but worse than in many other wealthy nations.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the quarterly downturn — the first since it contracted at the start of the pandemic in the first half of 2020 — was due to “extended lockdowns” in the country’s most populous states.

The downturn was out of step with other major economies such as Canada, India, Japan and the United States — which all saw growth in the same period.

Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra were all locked down for chunks of the quarter, causing households to spend dramatically less on services.

There was a 21 percent drop in spending on hotels, cafes and restaurants and a 40 percent drop in spending on transport.

Economists had forecast growth would drop around 2.8 percent, but increased exports appear to have come to the rescue — buoyed by high coal and gas prices.

The economy is expected to bounce back in the final quarter of the year, but Wednesday’s figures will further raise local concern about the impact of the Omicron variant.

Moody’s Investor Service said the strain “poses new risks to the global economic growth and inflation outlook”.

Australia is among the countries that have tightened travel restrictions as a result of the strain.

Eight-seven percent of Australians over 16 years old have been fully vaccinated.

© Agence France-Presse