CommSec State of the States: January 2022

From

Overall results

  • How are Australia’s states and territories performing?
  • Each quarter CommSec attempts to find out. Now in its 13th year, the report also includes a section comparing annual growth rates for the eight key indicators across the states and territories as well as Australia as a whole, enabling comparisons in terms of economic momentum.
  • It is important to note at the outset that all states and territories are performing well in challenging and ever-changing times.
  • Governments have the primary aim of protecting the health of Australians while providing substantial stimulus and support measures to protect economies.
  • In a fast-evolving environment dominated by the Covid-19 virus, rankings of relative economic performance can change, even on a monthly basis.
  • In an absolute sense, Australia’s state and territory economies are in solid shape, well supported by strong fiscal and monetary stimulus.
  • Unemployment rates are historically-low across much of the nation. Labour is in short supply across many industries, reflecting Covid self-isolation requirements and border restrictions.
  • In a relative sense, and for the eighth quarter in a row, Tasmania holds the mantle of the best performing economy. Tasmania leads on four of the eight indicators and is second ranked on another two.
  • There is little to separate the other economies. South Australia is second; Victoria is third; Western Australia is fourth; Queensland is fifth; NSW is sixth; the ACT is seventh; and the Northern Territory is eighth.
  • Tasmania is ranked first on relative unemployment, retail spending, equipment investment and dwelling starts. Tasmania also ranks second on construction work done and relative economic growth.
  • Victoria leads on construction work done.
  • NSW is number 1 on housing finance.
  • Western Australia is strongest on relative economic growth.
  • Queensland leads on relative population growth.
  • In terms of annual growth of the eight indicators, Western Australia top the annual changes on three measures; Victoria leads on two; while Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory lead on one each.

Analysis

  • In challenging times, all state and territory economies are performing well, supported by highly stimulative fiscal and monetary policies. Despite the constant changes presented by Covid-19, construction activity is solid, property markets are generally strong while job markets remain tight.
  • In relative performance though, Tasmania continues to dominate, maintaining its top position well ahead of other economies.
  • The success in suppressing the Covid-19 virus meant that Tasmania wasn’t forced to lock down its economy to the same extent as other economies, protected behind closed borders.
  • Tasmania has held top position in the performance rankings—solely or jointly—for eight consecutive quarterly surveys. While it is likely to remain on top in the short-term, much can change over 2022.
  • In differing ways, each state or territory will attempt to ‘live with Covid’ over 2022. This could lead to major changes in the performance rankings.
  • While Tasmania leads the rankings, at present there is little to separate the other economies. Lockdowns have weighed on the economic performances of NSW and the ACT in the last survey. While both of these economies could scale the rankings again, new challenges are presented by Covid self-isolation—not just for NSW and the ACT, but for all economies.
  • The opening of local and foreign borders is likely to support the Queensland economy.

Methodology

  • Each of the states and territory economies were assessed on eight key indicators: economic growth; retail spending; equipment investment; unemployment, construction work done; population growth; housing finance and dwelling commencements.
  • The aim is to find how each economy is performing compared with ‘normal’. And just like the Reserve Bank does with interest rates, we used decade-averages to judge the ‘normal’ state of affairs. For each economy, the latest level of the indicator – such as retail spending or economic growth – was compared with the decade average.
  • While we also looked at the current pace of growth to assess economic momentum, it may yield perverse results to judge performance. For instance retail spending may be up sharply on a year ago but from depressed levels. Overall spending may still be well below ‘normal’. And clearly some states such as Queensland and Western Australia traditionally have had faster economic growth rates due to historically faster population growth. So the best way to assess economic performance is to look at each indicator in relation to what would be considered ‘normal’ for that state or territory.
  • For instance, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate in both Tasmania and South Australia stood at 3.9 per cent in December. However, Tasmania’s unemployment rate was 39.7 per cent below its decade average, while the South Australian jobless rate was 38.5 per cent below its decade average. So Tasmania ranks above South Australia on this indicator.
  • Except for economic growth, seasonally adjusted or trend measures of the economic indicators were used to assess performance on all measures. While preference was for trend measures, in many cases these have been suspended in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Rolling annual nominal data was used to assess economic growth.

Read the report.

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