Australia’s economy extended its rapid recovery in the first quarter as consumers and businesses spent with abandon, lifting output back above where it was last year when pandemic lockdowns tipped the country into recession.
The economy expanded by a real 1.8% in the three months to March, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed. Economists had forecast a 1.5% rise following an upwardly revised 3.2% gain in the fourth quarter.
The solid back-to-back quarterly growth helped annual output climb 1.1% to A$525.7 billion ($408.05 billion), a major turnaround from last year’s recession low of $468.3 billion.
Australia is in rare company here with only five other countries boasting an economy that’s larger than before the pandemic, said Kristian Kolding, a partner at Deloitte Access Economics.
On average, Australia’s rich world peers are 2.7% smaller than they were before the pandemic, Deloitte’s research found, with the United Kingdom shrinking almost 9%, the European Union contracting by 5% and the United States 1% smaller.
Australia announced strict social distancing rules in late-March to curb the coronavirus pandemic forcing businesses from retailers to cafes and restaurants to down shutters while leading hundreds of thousands to queue up for welfare payments.
But the A$2 trillion economy has since staged a remarkable comeback by keeping virus numbers in check which has allowed businesses to reopen with confidence. Hefty and timely monetary and fiscal stimulus have been beneficial too.