CommSec State of the States – April 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.
  • All states and territories continue to perform well in challenging times.
  • Governments now are attempting to support consumers and businesses from cost of living pressures while at the same time removing now redundant stimulus measures.
  • In a relative sense, and for the ninth quarter in a row, Tasmania holds the mantle of the best performing economy. But after leading on four of the eight indicators in the previous survey, Tasmania now leads on just one indicator. However Tasmania is second or third on five other indicators.
  • There is little to separate the other economies. Victoria is second; Queensland and Western Australia are equal third; the ACT and South Australia are equal fifth; NSW is seventh; and the Northern Territory is eighth
  • The equal third position for Queensland is its highest ranking in eight years. And Western Australia has equalled its best ranking in 7½ years.
  • Tasmania is ranked first on equipment investment. Tasmania also ranks second on construction work done, retail spending and relative economic growth. Tasmania is third-ranked on relative unemployment and dwelling starts.
  • Victoria leads on housing finance and retail spending.
  • Queensland leads the rankings on relative population growth.
  • Western Australia leads on relative economic growth and relative unemployment.
  • South Australia leads on dwelling starts and construction work done.
  • In terms of annual growth rates of the eight economic indicators, all states and territories except Northern Territory topped the leader-board on at least one indicator (Western Australia and South Australia shared top spot on annual employment growth).

Analysis

  • In terms of relative economic performance, Tasmania remains on top. But there are two key findings. The gap between Tasmania and other states and territories has narrowed. And the gap has also narrowed between the second and seventh position on the relative economic leader board.
  • Tasmania continues to lead other economies with Victoria in second spot.
  • Tasmania has held top position in the performance rankings—solely or jointly—for nine quarterly surveys. While it has dominated over much of this period, it is now possible that Tasmania will be challenged for top spot over the next six months.
  • Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia lead rankings on two indicators. Tasmania leads on just one indicator, down from four indicators in the previous survey.
  • As noted last survey, the opening of local and foreign borders will continue to support the Queensland economy. And Western Australia may also benefit from re-opening of borders, but to a lesser extent.

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 rates in both the ACT and Western Australia stood at 3.4 per cent in March. However, Western Australia’s unemployment rate was 38.1 per cent below its decade average, while the ACT jobless rate was 15.1 per cent below its decade average. So Western Australia ranks above the ACT 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 full report.

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