New Zealand lifted spending on credit and debit card transactions marginally last month, with increased spending at bars and restaurants offsetting the drop in fuel retailing.

The seasonally adjusted value of total electronic card transactions rose 0.2 per cent to $5.334 billion in the month, up from $5.322 billion in June, according to Statistics New Zealand. Spending on core retail industries, which excludes motor vehicle related industries, rose 0.5 per cent to $3.37 billion, led by a 1.5 per cent increase in hospitality spending.

The increased spending on hospitality suggests consumers were feeling more confident about the state of the local economy in July, and loosening the grip on their wallets.

"While household debt levels remain high and credit growth weak, the stabilisation in the housing market, along with improved household disposable income growth, is expected to allow for a slower pace of deleveraging," said Philip Borkin, an economist at Goldman Sachs & Partners New Zealand.


"This should allow for a larger share of each marginal dollar earned to be directed towards spending, as opposed to saving or debt repayment."

Government data showed the country's jobless numbers declined this year, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 6.5 per cent in the three months ended June 30 after being revised down 0.1 percentage point in the March quarter. That's lower than the 6.6 per cent forecast in a Reuters survey and is down 0.4 percentage points in the past year.

Including the two motor vehicle categories in the electronic card data, the value of retail industries rose 0.4 per cent in July to $4.04 billion, reflecting a drop in prices at the fuel pump in the month on the back of strong New Zealand dollar, with fuel retailing down 1.4 per cent in the month. That follows a 3.7 per cent fall in fuel spending in June and a 4.6 per cent decline in May.

Spending on services and non-retail items rose 0.3 per cent in the month.

Trends for the value of transactions have been rising since January 2009, the department said, with the trend for core retailing strengthening since December 2010.