Australia

Retail figures, job vacancies disappoint

Scott Morrison is sticking with his tax cut plans despite disappointing retail and job vacancy figures suggesting his government needs to stimulate the economy.

Disappointing retail numbers just days after interest rates went to record lows have business groups and economists calling for help in the economy, as job vacancies also fell.

But the coalition government insists it doesn't need to do anything extra to stimulate spending.

That means no lift to Newstart, despite calls from the Business Council, John Howard, unions and economists.

"We have no plans to increase social security payments for Newstart beyond what is the normal six-monthly indexation using the measures that are always in place," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament on Thursday.

"Which is the same policy that was taken to the election by the Labor Party."

It also means a cut to tax thresholds won't be brought forward from 2022, despite Labor's call to put more money into people's pockets straight away.

"The issue that this government is most focused on above all things is the creation of jobs," Mr Morrison said.

Hundreds of thousands of workers who rely on Sunday penalty rates will see smaller pay packets this week after cuts came into effect on July 1.

Retail spending rose 0.1 per cent in May to $27.3 billion, according to seasonally adjusted data released on Thursday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

But the result missed the consensus forecast of a 0.2 per cent increase, and came on the back of a 0.1 per cent decrease in April.

On Tuesday the Reserve Bank cut interest rates to a record low of one per cent and Governor Philip Lowe expressed concern about the outlook for household consumption.

Job vacancies also dropped 1.1 per cent in the three months to May, pointing to more looming problems.

Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash said the figures showed the "consistency" in the national economy.

"While vacancies and retail trade fluctuate from month to month, we have seen steady growth in both jobs creation and turnover in the retail sector over the past 12 months," she told AAP.

"Australia, like many countries in the OECD, faces global economic headwinds, which is why it is so vital that the Morrison government pass its tax cuts legislation, which will deliver lower taxes for 94 per cent of Australian workers."

But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the stats didn't lie.

"All of the national economic indicators at the moment (are) reinforcing again the fact that the economy is really struggling on this government's watch," he told reporters.

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver on Thursday said retail spending would likely remain weak even though rate cuts and signs of a housing market recovery could improve sentiment.

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