Retail trade has risen 0.9 per cent, slightly less than the consensus expectation of a 1.0 per cent jump.

Compared to a year ago, trade was up 9.6 per cent in April, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Friday.

Spending at cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services was up 3.3 per cent as lockdown-weary consumers at out more.

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However spending on household goods fell 2.7 per cent and department store spend dropped 2.5 per cent.

Retail spending has this year defied hurdles to post record growth but the new figures don’t capture the impact of the first official rate rise in more than a decade.

So far in 2022, shoppers have endured the COVID-19 Omicron variant, floods in Australia’s east and a spike in petrol prices amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Consumer confidence, a guide to future household spending, has also been in decline due to cost of living pressures.

On the other side of the counter, retailers are suffering from severe staff shortages, partly due to a lack of migration when international borders were shut fending off the coronavirus pandemic.

The Australian Retailers Association estimates there are more than 29,000 job vacancies in the retail sector, while the National Skills Commission says there was a 15.7 per cent jump in online job ads for sales assistants and salespersons in April.

Friday’s ABS data release follows a 1.6 per cent increase in March retail trade to reach a record $33.6 billion for the month.

However, given the uncertainties facing consumers, predictions for April ranged from a small 0.4 per cent increase to a larger two per cent rise.

Consumers will face the additional pressure of rising interest rates in coming months after the Reserve Bank of Australia raised the official cash rate earlier this month, while flagging further hikes over the year ahead.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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