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  1. CommSec's quarterly 'State of the States' report was released yesterday and once again, South Australia is still in seventh place, while Tasmania has the nation's worst performing economy. The full report can be downloaded @ http://www.investing.commsec.com.au/media/119240/e130722.pdf The report analyses eight key indicators: economic growth retail spending equipment investment unemployment construction work done population growth housing finance dwelling commencements Western Australia remains the top-performing economy in the nation with little slippage in the ranking over the past three months. However the big change has been the lift in the ranking of the ACT to second while the Northern Territory economy has slipped to third strongest. There has been little change in the ranking of other states. Western Australia comes out top on three of the eight criteria – housing finance, retail spending and equipment investment. Western Australia is still second on three of the eight indicators, third on dwelling starts and fifth on unemployment. The switching in the rankings of the Northern Territory and the ACT is largely due to weakening in the performance of the job market in the Northern Territory and improvement in the job market in the ACT. NSW is the fourth strongest economy from Victoria and Queensland. Then there is a gap to South Australia - While the state is middle ranking on unemployment and construction work, it lags on economic growth, retail spending and equipment investment. and then another gap to Tasmania. [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/economicgrowth.png[/img2]Economic Growth The Northern Territory continues to lead the rankings on economic activity. Activity in the ‘top end’ is almost 40 per cent above its ‘normal’ or decade-average level of output. Next strongest is Western Australia, with output around 33 per cent higher than the decade average level of output. Then follows Queensland (up 18.3 per cent) from the ACT (up 17.3 per cent). At the other end of the scale, economic activity in Tasmania in the March quarter was just 3.0 per cent above its decade average while South Australian activity was up almost 10 per cent on its “normal” or average output over the past decade. The Northern Territory also maintains the fastest annual economic growth rate in the nation, up by 13.5 per cent on a year ago, ahead of Western Australia with 7.9 per cent and NSW (3.0 per cent). The weakest trend economic growth rate was recorded in Tasmania (-2.6 per cent) followed by South Australia (-2.1 per cent) and Victoria (-0.1 per cent). [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/retail.png[/img2]Retail trade Western Australia retains top spot on the retail rankings with spending in the March quarter 25.2 per cent above decade average levels. Solid population growth, a lift in home purchases and firm wage growth underpin the relative strength in consumer spending. Northern Territory was next strongest, again courtesy of low unemployment, with spending just under 19 per cent above decade-average levels. Queensland was next strongest, with spending 15 per cent above decade averages, followed by Victoria (up 11.5per cent). Tasmania has the weakest result on retail spending, up just 2.7 per cent on the decade average (but up from 1.4 per cent in the December quarter), and below South Australia with growth of 6.6 per cent. In terms of the monthly retail trade series, Western Australian spending is 4.3 per cent higher than a year ago, just in front of Queensland with 4.2 per cent growth, the ACT with 3.4 per cent growth and NSW, up 3.2 per cent. At the other end of the scale, Tasmanian spending is 1.9 per cent down on a year ago and South Australian spending is lower by 1.0 per cent. [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/equipment.png[/img2]Equipment investment Western Australia continues to be well above other states and territories when it comes to equipment investment. Spending in the March quarter was almost 75 per cent above “normal” – or decade-average levels but down from 103.2 per cent in the December quarter. Next placed were the ACT (up 36.6 per cent) and Queensland (up 33.4 per cent) followed by NSW (up 15.7 per cent), Victoria (up 5.2 per cent) and Northern Territory (up 4.5 per cent). By contrast, new equipment spending in South Australia was in line with its decade-average while Tasmania had business investment 1.3 per cent below its longer-term average in the March quarter. On a shorter-run analysis, equipment investment in the March quarter was lower than a year ago in five of the state and territory economies. Currently equipment investment is down on a year ago in Tasmania (down 33.6 per cent), Northern Territory (down 26.9 per cent), South Australia (down 15.5 per cent), NSW (down 6.2 per cent) and Victoria (down 0.1 per cent). By contrast new equipment investment in the ACT is up 50.4 per cent on a tear earlier followed by Queensland (up 10.4 per cent) and Western Australia (up 0.1 per cent). [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/unemployment.png[/img2]Unemployment NSW and the ACT arguably have the strongest job markets in the nation. While its trend unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent is not the lowest in the nation, the NSW jobless rate is just 5.1 per cent above the “normal” or decade average level. In the ACT, trend unemployment has fallen from 4.5 per cent to 3.7 per cent over the past four months but this is 9.3 per cent above its decade average rate of 3.4 per cent. In Victoria the 5.7 per cent jobless rate is 9.2 per cent above its decade average. At the other end of the scale Tasmania’s 8.1 per cent jobless rate is the highest in the nation and up 36 per cent on the decade average. The Northern Territory job market is next weakest – a significant turnaround over the last report. In the past six months the jobless rate has lifted from 4.0 per cent to 5.3 per cent and it is now 23 per cent above its decade average level of 4.3 per cent. [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/construction.png[/img2]Construction Work In all states/territories except Tasmania construction work is higher than decade averages. And there remains a large gap between the strongest states (the resource states) and weakest states (Tasmania). In Tasmania, overall new construction work completed is 3.5 per cent below its decade average. By contrast construction work done in Northern Territory was almost 80 per cent above its decade average followed by Western Australia (up 66 per cent) and Queensland (up almost 53 per cent). Next weakest to Tasmania is Victoria where construction work is 15.8 per cent above decade averages, followed by NSW (up 19.4 per cent on the decade average). In terms of annual growth rates, Northern Territory construction work done in the March quarter was up 55.7 per cent on a year ago, followed by Queensland (up 7.7 per cent) and NSW (up 6.4 per cent). Four of the states and territories had weaker construction work than a year ago. [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/population.png[/img2]Population Growth Western Australia is the clear leader in population growth. Not only is the annual growth rate of 3.47 per cent the strongest in the nation, it is also almost 46 per cent above the decade average. But the actual leader in the rankings is the ACT. Annual population growth of 2.31 per cent is the highest in 21 years and is almost 57 per cent above “normal’. In NSW current annual population growth of 1.25 per cent is 18 per cent above the decade average. At the other end of the leader-board is Tasmania where the annual population growth of 0.08 per cent is the weakest in over 11 years and a massive 90 per cent below the decade average rate of 0.77 per cent. Housing Finance In all but three states and territories, trend housing finance commitments are below decade averages – an improvement on the previous report when all economies had activity below decade averages. In the strongest state of Western Australia, the number of housing finance commitments was 10 per cent above the decade-average level and commitments in May were 16.5 per cent higher than a year ago. Victoria was in second spot for housing finance, with the number of commitments 2.3 per cent above the longterm average. And importantly the market has momentum with home lending 5.7 per cent higher than a year ago in trend terms to a 42-month high. The ACT remains in third spot on housing finance, up 1.4 per cent on the decade average followed by NSW (down 4.4 per cent). Tasmania is the weakest economy for housing finance with trend commitments 27.7 per cent lower than its decade average, but encouragingly commitments were up 4.9 on a year ago. Next weakest was the Northern Territory with trend commitments down 23.8 per cent on the decade average. [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/dwellings.png[/img2]Dwelling Starts The outlook for housing construction has improved, underpinned by state government grants for new construction and low interest rates. Dwelling starts are above decade averages in five of the states and territories and again starts in five states and territories are above levels of a year ago. The Northern Territory is in the strongest position for new housing construction, with starts almost 54 per cent above decade averages. In addition in the March quarter the number of dwellings started was 27 per cent higher than a year earlier, although down from the 61.6 per cent annual growth in the December quarter. In second spot was NSW, with starts over 16 per cent above decade averages. And there is plenty of momentum with starts in the quarter up 33.4 per cent on a year ago – the best growth in three years. In Western Australia, dwelling starts in the March quarter were up 11.2 per cent on the ‘normal’ or “decade average” level with starts in Victoria up almost 6 per cent and ACT starts still 2.3 per cent above decade averages. At the other end of the scale, Tasmanian dwelling starts were 38.6 per cent below decade averages, while starts in the March quarter were 25 per cent down on a year earlier. Next weakest was Queensland (down 20.5 per cent), followed by South Australia (down 12.5 per cent). South Australian starts in the March quarter were up 14.4 per cent over the year. [img2=right]http://www.perthpoms.com/images/commsec/houseprices.png[/img2]Other Indicators Real wages were positive in all economies in the March quarter except for the Northern Territory. Strongest growth occurred Tasmania at 2.2 percentage points, followed by Western Australia (1.3 percentage points) and the ACT (1.2 percentage points). Home prices are now higher than a year ago in all but Hobart (down 1.8 per cent). Strongest growth in home prices was in Darwin (up 6.1 per cent) followed by Perth (up 6.0 per cent) and Sydney (up 5.6 per cent).

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