The wage bill for businesses has tumbled by a record amount during the coronavirus pandemic, even as company profits jumped by the biggest quarterly margin in four years.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed wages and salaries slumped 3.3 per cent during the June quarter as coronavirus and rising unemployment took their toll.
The result was even weaker than the 2.3 per cent fall recorded in the June quarter of 2009 and at the time of the global financial crisis.
But the bureau's business indicators report for the June quarter also showed company profits soared 15 per cent when economists had expected a fall.
The ABS attributed the strong rise to government subsidies like JobKeeper during the pandemic.
"However, this strength won't flow through to GDP because of the way the ABS will treat the stimulus boost," ANZ senior economist Felicity Emmett said.
In contrast, business inventories - stock on shelves and in warehouses - dropped three per cent in the June quarter.
Westpac senior economist Andrew Hanlan calculates this will subtract a large 0.5 percentage points from economic growth.
The June quarter growth result will be contained in Wednesday's national accounts, which Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James says will be part of a week of "eye-popping" figures.
Economists' forecasts centre on a contraction of about six per cent during the June quarter, marking the biggest decline since the ABS started plotting the national accounts in the late 1950s.
This sharp fall follows a more modest 0.3 per cent decline in the March quarter and constitutes a technical recession of two consecutive quarters of contraction.
It would be the first recession in almost 30 years.
Reserve Bank figures showed demand for credit remains low, particularly from people seeking personal loans.
Total credit fell 0.1 per cent in July but was still 2.4 per cent higher than a year earlier.
However, personal credit dropped 1.8 per cent in the month and now stands 12.1 per cent down on the year, a figure that is double the size of the downturn seen during the last recession in the early 1990s.
A separate ABS report - part of a special series on how the nation is coping through the pandemic - found anxiety and depression are being felt across the nation because of the coronavirus crisis.
"While Victoria has experienced the greatest surge in recent cases of COVID-19 ... the effects on how Australians are feeling are country-wide," ABS head of household surveys Michelle Marquardt said.
The report came as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg resumed his attack on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews over his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, likening the situation to a slow-moving car cash.
"Restrictions imposed by the Victorian government have had a devastating impact on the economy," Mr Frydenberg said.
Treasury figures found more Victorians are expected to be on JobKeeper wage subsidies by year's end than the rest of the country combined.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said Mr Frydenberg's attacks are nothing more than a distraction.
"It's just abundantly clear that Josh Frydenberg's strategy is not to fix aged care, not to come up with a jobs plan, and not to deal with the jobs crisis, but to point the finger and shift the blame onto state governments and the Labor Party," Dr Chalmers said.