Insights into a post Covid recovery

Understanding how Covid lockdowns have impacted certain individuals and industries, helps to inform us about how quickly the economy and markets may recover.

With this in mind, I thought it was useful to share a number of charts published recently by the RBA and banks which provide important and interesting insights.

Covid has discriminated against younger workers and lower income earners

Workers between the ages of 15 and 34 account for more than half of the jobs lost (unemployment) until August (even more until May).

post Covid

The RBA broke up changes to employment into five groups – from the highest income earners to the lowest earners. As the chart below shows, the lowest paid 40% of Australian’s suffered the largest loss of employment (over 80% of the total jobs lost to August).

post Covid

It is not surprising to see that Covid has impacted a finite number of industries, especially hospitality and travel.

post Covid

The good news is that employment has recovered significantly between May and August – as denoted above by the dark-blue dots versus the light-blue bars.

Those that have been less impacted have been saving money and repaying debt

For those that have not been materially impacted by Covid, disposable incomes have actually increased (mainly due to low rates), consumption has fallen (due to lockdowns) and the saving ratio has increased significantly.

post Covid

People have been making larger repaying towards credit card balances.

post Covid

And borrowers have been making larger principal repayments and/or accumulating more cash in offset accounts. So, overall, personal debt has reduced during Covid.

post Covid
Offset accounts

Spending and confidence has rebounded strongly

National consumer spending (using credit card data compiled by ANZ) is 8% higher than this time last year. Victoria has rebounded strongly. This demonstrates that the cohort of people that have not been impacted by Covid more than make up for those that have. Large spending increases have been observed in furniture, homewares and electrical categories.

consumer spending

Consumer confidence (per Westpac/Melbourne Institute) is now at a 7 year high. It is likely that confidence has been buoyed by Australia appearing to now be Covid-free and people can now see past 2020, looking towards a Covid-normal 2021. The possibility of a successful vaccine arriving in the first half of next year also helps the global economic outlook.

Consumer confidence

What does all this data tell us?

(1) Higher earners will probably drive the property market recovery

The above data demonstrates that there are two cohorts of Australians.

The first cohort that has unfortunately been adversely impacted by Covid. These are likely to be lower income earners and younger Australian’s. As such, it is less likely that they will be owners or prospective buyers of property located in blue-chip suburbs.

The second cohort are those that haven’t been impacted by Covid (or only to a minor extent). These are likely to be higher income earners, over the age of 34, have more savings in the bank (offset) and have lower debt levels as a result of spending less (thanks to lockdowns). It is this cohort that will probably implement their property plans (purchase, upgrade, invest) sooner rather than later. Historically low interest rates will also benefit this cohort to a greater extent, as they tend to have high levels of borrowings.

(2) Higher spenders will drive the economic recovery

Lower income earners contribute less to overall consumer consumption. Importantly, consumer consumption accounts for circa 60% of Australia’s GDP.

Higher income earners (who have not been impacted by Covid) are not able to spend money on overseas holidays. This means these monies are likely to be spent in Australia instead – either on domestic travel/tourism or increased consumption. This cohort have a lot of spending power (as demonstrated by year-to-date spending data). This will aid Australia’s economic recovery which will also drive stock market returns.

Of course, there will be industries and sectors that will be hit hard and take many years to recover. But at the macro level, it’s likely the thriving industries will more than compensate for the impaired industries.

Overall, things look relatively optimistic

Whilst Covid has had a significant emotional and financial impact, the data suggests that higher income earners have largely retained their income levels and improved their financial positions. Australia will be heavily reliant upon this cohort to drive our recovery. It also means that property in highly sort after, blue-chip locations will likely benefit from high levels of demand which will probably translate into price appreciation.

Here’s a summary video which I posted on social media: