BOOM times could soon be back in WA.
That’s the verdict from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA’s latest consumer confidence research, due out today.
It found West Australians are increasingly optimistic about the State’s economic prospects — with consumer confidence hitting a five-year high in the September quarter.
The only survey of its kind in WA, the research canvasses the views of Perth and country households.
Short and medium-term confidence are both at their highest level since March 2013, and it is also the first time since 2013 that more West Australians believe the economy is strengthening than those who think it is weakening.
“West Australians are seeing more job openings, they’re seeing more optimism among their friends and family and they’re slowly, but surely, more confident about the future of the WA economy,” CCI chief economist Rick Newnham said.
The survey found:
FOUR out of five consumers expect the WA economy to improve or remain unchanged over the coming quarter, a rise of 2 per cent since last quarter.
ALMOST half of consumers are anticipating stronger economic conditions for the year ahead, up 9 per cent on the last quarter.
“These results also indicate that WA’s economic recovery is being experienced by a broader group of West Australians,” Mr Newnham said.
The latest lift in confidence is, in part, due to an improving jobs market. WA’s job vacancies are at their highest level in five years, with a 14.1 per cent year-on-year increase in job ads.
The CCI believes other factors in the new optimism include the Federal Government’s multi-year personal and small business tax cut package coming into effect on July 1 and proposed GST reforms to deliver an extra $4.7 billion to WA over eight years.
“Cost of living does, however, continue to be the biggest dampener on confidence, with costs such as groceries, utilities, and transport being cited by 60 per cent of respondents as a concern,” Mr Newnham said. “This is down 5 per cent since last quarter, suggesting a slight relief on household wallets.”
Exploring the cost-of-living pressures, CCI asked West Australians which bill they would pay first if they could not afford to pay them all.
Internet (24 per cent), mobile phone bills (22 per cent) and health insurance (22 per cent) ranked ahead of keeping the car (6 per cent), electricity (7 per cent) and water (10 per cent) running.
Despite the jump in confidence, underemployment and youth unemployment remain a serious concern, with 143,000 people wanting to work more hours and a 15 per cent unemployment rate among young West Australians.
Mr Newnham urged the Government to reverse the 30 per cent reduction in extra Christmas retail hours.
PERTH’S Direct Factory Outlet shopping centre opens on Wednesday and its owners are tipping renewed retail confidence as West Australians open their purse strings in the lead-up to Christmas.
The $150 million shopping destination next to Perth Airport promises WA fashion lovers and bargain hunters savings of up to 70 per cent at 113 stores including designer brands Kate Spade, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Fossil and Oroton.
An army of tradies has spent months carrying out shop fit-outs, while about 650 jobs have been created for retail staff.
Justin Blumfield, the regional general manager of the DFO brand, said the centre was expecting strong returns in its first year of trading.
“There are some challenges. The downturn in WA was longer than expected. But there are now good signs the economy is stabilising,” he said.
“We’re seeing some green shoots. Consumer confidence is returning, so we’re pleased with the timing we’re coming into the market.”
Deloitte Access Economics predicts WA will have the strongest retail sector of any State over the next five years.