Confidence lift good for business, jobs:PM

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Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Scott Morrison has leapt on new figures showing confidence among Australians has jumped to a 11-year high, saying it is good news for business and jobs.

After enduring a difficult couple of weeks surrounding the slow progress of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, the prime minister drew comfort in the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment survey.

It showed confidence rose 6.2 per cent in April to the highest level since August 2010 when the post-global financial crisis rebound and mining boom were in full swing.

“Australians can see that Australia is coming through this pandemic, and the recession it has caused, better than almost any other country in the world today,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Perth on Wednesday.

“That’s good news for business, it’s good news for jobs.”

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans described it as an extraordinary result.

“The survey continues to signal that the consumer will be the key driver of above-trend growth in 2021,” Mr Evans said.

Mr Evans was ready for a small pullback in confidence following the unwinding of the JobKeeper wages subsidy program late last month.

There has also been disappointing progress in the vaccine rollout, compounded by health expert advice against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged under 50 due to the risk of blood clotting.

“Yet households appear to be resilient,” Mr Evans said.

The strong performance of the labour market and increasingly strong demand for workers, as well as a booming house market, were seen as factors lifting the mood of the nation.

A separate survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found 70 per cent of households expect their finances to stay the same in the next 12 months, while 18 per cent expect them to improve.

Just 12 per cent expect them to decline.

Its latest report on the impact of COVID-19 on households also found almost half of Australians expect to be able save money in the next 12 months.

The end of JobKeeper has raised concerns about the impact on businesses and the labour market.

Treasury has estimated the end of the subsidy could see as many as 150,000 lose their jobs.

Another report showed an increasing number of firms deciding to shut up shop as they concede they are no longer viable after government support measures wind up.

But while credit reporting agency CreditorWatch says external administrations are rising, on an annual basis they have fallen for more than 13 consecutive months.

“The average number of external administrations over the last six months is 14 per cent lower than for the six-month period to September 2020,” chief executive Patrick Coghlan said.

“We expect to see a rise in the number of administrations, especially with JobKeeper having come to an end.”

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