Mining-rich Western Australia is still dominating the rest of the country when it comes to state-by-state economic health, but Northern Territory is gaining ground quickly according to new research from CommSec.
The organisation’s latest State of the States report has confirmed the ongoing trend – Western Australia is still on top in four of the eight criteria, and weaker states such as Tasmania have continued their ongoing struggle.
There are some changes appearing. The Northern Territory has passed the ACT to reach second, with its natural gas projects helping provide momentum, and New South Wales now ranks among Victoria and Queensland.
But overall, says CommSec chief economist Craig James, not much has changed.
“While there has been some modest reshuffling of other positions, in general there hasn’t been much change over the past three months.”
Western Australia has led on construction work, retail trade, population growth and equipment investment, with the only real weak point in dwelling starts, where it ranked seventh.
The Northern Territory ranked well in economic growth, jobs, and retail, coming second. The ACT ranked third with large growth in dwelling starts and population growth.
New South Wales moved from fifth to fourth along Victoria and Queensland, with relatively low unemployment helping out there. However, Victoria dropped due to higher unemployment, with Queensland also affected by weaker housing finance.
In terms of gross domestic product, the Northern Territory leads, followed by Western Australia and the ACT. But economic activity in Tasmania was up just 5.5% – the island state recorded a growth rate of negative 2.9%.
Western Australia retained its rank for retail trade – although James noted that if monthly retail trade data was assessed, the ACT and South Australia would swap ranks. The Northern Territory and Queensland ranked second and third, followed by Victoria.
Tasmania recorded the weakest result, up just 6.5% on the decade average.
The Northern Territory and Western Australia recorded the strongest job markets, with the former recording a jobless rate of just 3.9%. The weakest market was in Queensland, with the jobless rate at 6.1%, 19% above the decade average.
Housing finance, James said, was a “useful indicator of activity in the financial sector”. Victoria had the strongest market, with housing finance commitments 2.4% below the decade average level, while in Western Australia, the number of commitments was 3% below the long-term average.
Tasmania recorded the weakest result with commitments 27% lower than the decade average.
Overall, James said the states have mostly retained their rankings, although Northern Territory has enjoyed some improvement due to the ongoing strength of its natural gas projects. Tasmania is still expected to be the weak point.
“The Tasmanian economy continues to struggle and there are few signs of improvement on the horizon. The economy must exploit the relative advantages of a cheap property market and attractive agricultural export and tourism opportunities.”