Economic activity now only 'slightly below 2019 levels' - Treasury

The number of people on the Jobseeker Support benefit went up in the week to July 10, even as more people started receiving the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment (CIRP), new figures from Treasury show.

Between them there are now 208,500 people receiving some kind of Government income support - up 3300 on July 3, and 64,000 since March. 

At the same time, the number of Kiwis whose jobs are still being supported by the wage subsidy continues to fall - of the 1.7 million total, just 340,000 workers are still employed by organisations using the wage subsidy, as the initial 12-week offer expires. 

The CIRP is available to those who can prove they lost their job thanks to COVID-19.

The economy "showed a continuing recovery" in June, Treasury said, "though activity remained slightly below 2019 levels". 

Economic activity in June was just 0.9 percent lower than in June 2019, despite growing unemployment and virtually zero migration, which is at a 60-year low. In April it dropped nearly 20 percent, but consumer spending has since rebounded to "near levels seen in January and February". 

"The housing market rebounded and electronic card spending rose above 2019 levels, while business confidence continued to improve in a preliminary July survey."

New Zealand's near-normal economic activity contrasts with what's being seen overseas, Treasury said.

"Increases in global COVID-19 cases continue to weigh on the global outlook, with most countries continuing to record activity well below pre-COVID levels, responding with increased fiscal stimulus."

Unlike many other countries New Zealand has managed to wipe out known community transmission of the virus, allowing the Government to lift economically damaging restrictions that are still being applied elsewhere.

Treasury in May predicted unemployment would spike to 9.6 percent, up from 4.2 percent at the start of the pandemic. The next update on the official unemployment rate isn't due until August 5.