Tuesday, 9 April, 2019
In December, Upper Hunter business and household expectations for the local economy continued to decline from their 2017 high. That is according to new analysis released at the Upper Hunter economic breakfast at Muswellbrook RSL on Wednesday, 10 April.
Dr Anthea Bill, lead economist for Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) Centre, says that more Upper Hunter businesses are reporting that their performance is improving than declining. She cautions that a smaller share are reporting improved performance compared to 12 months ago.
“Business performance, confidence and expectations of the local economy are still positive and above 2014 lows, but there is growing uncertainty. Evidence suggests a slowing labour market, following the rapid about-turn and growth spurt that started in 2015,” she said.
Dr Bill explained that the Centre’s Pulse surveys show that, to some degree at least, the dampening of expectations for the Hunter economy amongst households and businesses in the Upper Hunter is ‘in synch’ with the Hunter region more broadly. It also aligns with business and consumer sentiment nationwide.
Unlike the broader region or the state, employment numbers fell from June 2018 to February 2019. There were 3,300 jobs lost (3-month moving average) in the Hunter Balance* over this period, according to the ABS Labour Force survey.
“On the positive side, the region continues to exhibit low rates of unemployment, a strengthening construction pipeline, and a relatively robust housing market, particularly in Singleton,” she stated.
The Upper Hunter economic breakfast also featured a presentation on global energy trends and the likely trajectory for Hunter coal exports. Tony Wood, Energy Program Director for the Grattan Institute, tackled demand for coal from Australia’s major trading partners in the context of climate change policies and the rise of renewable energy technology.
* Hunter Balance includes Upper Hunter Region (Singleton, Muswellbrook, Upper Hunter) plus Cessnock, Maitland, Port Stephens and Dungog Local Government Areas