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Some indicators pick up as New Zealand moves out of lockdown – Media release

8 May 2020

New Zealanders moved around more in the main centres and used more fuel and power while weekly exports held up as the country left the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown, Stats NZ said today.

COVID-19 data portal, our new webpage, includes about 40 near-real-time economic indicators from a range of sources to show the impact of COVID-19.

The webpage is updated frequently and in some cases on a daily basis. It shows partial indicators of how New Zealand fared in the week after moving to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Monday 27 April. The country was in alert level 4 lockdown for almost five weeks, from Thursday 26 March.

“In the first week back in level 3, more businesses could open, such as takeaways, and construction work could begin again,” Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand senior manager Aaron Beck said.

“We are starting to see the early signs of more activity in a handful of indicators, but it will take time to see how the wider economy changes because of COVID-19,” Mr Beck said. “The data portal is a simple way to see a range of data in one handy spot.”

Traffic moves out of low gear

Estimated weekly traffic counts in the main centres dropped sharply after level 4 started, down roughly 75 percent for light vehicles and almost as much for heavy vehicles. Traffic counts have now started to partially recover.

In the past week, Auckland heavy vehicle traffic has more than doubled from the low levels experienced during the level 4 lockdown but still remains about one-quarter below the levels seen before the lockdown.

In the past week, Auckland light vehicle traffic has roughly doubled from the low levels experienced during the level 4 lockdown but remains about half the levels seen before the lockdown.

The picture is similar in the other main centres of Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, and Dunedin.

Fuel up

Retail fuel supplies also fell roughly 75 percent after New Zealand moved into the level 4 lockdown (based on Z Energy data).

In the week to 3 May, after moving into level 3, retail fuel supplies have increased by about half, compared with the week ending 26 April. Fuel supply volumes remain well down on levels seen before the lockdown.

Power demand lifts

Electricity demand rose more than 20 percent from about 90 gigawatt hours before the move into alert level 3 to more than 110 gigawatt hours on 6 May, rising over several days – even before a cold front hit New Zealand.

This is similar to the approximately 110 gigawatt hours a day before the move into level 4 on 26 March.

Grid demand is affected by weather as well as economic activity, for example, there is typically more demand when the weather is colder and less demand in a mild winter.

Broadband demand jumps in lockdown

Daily broadband use picked up considerably after the level 4 lockdown started at 11:59pm on 25 March, as many people began working from home and students increased their use of the internet for online learning and entertainment.

Broadband use was about 18 million gigabytes a day in the week before the level 4 lockdown ended (based on Chorus data). It dipped slightly the day the country moved to level 3.

As at 6 May, it was back to almost 17 gigabytes, still well above the 13–15 million gigabytes before the lockdown began.

Export trade holds up

Compared with the same period in 2019, New Zealand’s total exports from 1 February to the end of April 2020 are close to levels seen in the same period last year.

The provisional total value of exports to all countries from 1 February to 29 April 2020 was about $15 billion, about $787 million less than for the same period in 2019.

These graphs were compiled to help inform government agencies as the COVID-19 outbreak evolved around the world. Stats NZ is now making this data available to the public.

“The webpage may be expanded in future, with additional economic, social, and health indicators,” Mr Beck said.