As COVID-19 lockdowns lifted all across the nation, Australian spending tracked 20 per cent higher than the corresponding week of 2019, according to Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s weekly credit and debit card spending data.

In-store purchases and spending on services both ticked higher in the week ended Friday, 29 October. As a result, national spending is on track to reach the growth levels seen earlier in 2021, which averaged at 22 per cent above 2019 figures in late April and early May. The report considers 2019 as the last ‘normal year’ prior to the start of the pandemic.

Last week, NSW spending was 23.3 per cent higher than the corresponding week in 2019, with eating and drinking out and transportation leading the charge. Meanwhile, Victoria’s spending growth accelerated 1.2 percentage points above the week prior, equating to a 10 per cent increase on the same week in 2019. Spending growth also accelerated in Tasmania, the ACT, Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory, but slipped in South Australia. Excluding Victoria, spending across all states and territories now sits at 20 per cent or more above 2019 levels.

“We are seeing the economic engine rev higher again as people get out and about, catching up on lost time with friends and family,” said Stephen Halmarick, Chief Economist at Commonwealth Bank.

In a sign of pent-up demand, while in-person spending increased, there have not been corresponding declines in spending online or on goods.

“This is a pleasing indicator of underlying economic strength as consumers who have delayed their purchases during lockdown are now rushing back to the market,” Mr Halmarick said.

Still, some spending categories that benefitted from a post-lockdown surge are showing signs of softening. This includes personal care spending, which eased a little last week but remains above pre-lockdown pace.

“If you missed a haircut during lockdown, you don’t catch up by having two,” Mr Halmarick said.

Victoria’s spending continued to increase, with the state’s spending on eating out up 20 percentage points from a week earlier, while spending on drinking out surged 30 percentage points. Victoria contributed just under half of the national increase in spending in the week.

“Victorian retailers welcomed back shoppers this weekend, and we anticipate that will translate into stronger spending on clothing, footwear and general retail in next week’s report as it had done in NSW as lockdown ended,” Mr Halmarick said.

CBA’s card spending data covers approximately 40 per cent of consumer payments transactions in Australia and is the nation’s largest and fastest consumer spending data set. High frequency CBA card spending data will again be published on a weekly basis to help track the pace and extent of the recovery in consumer spending post-lockdowns and to see how consumers respond to living with COVID.