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“Solid Survey Result” For Business Recovery

The results are in: NAB’s Monthly Business Survey for March 2021 reveals that Australian businesses reported the best operating conditions on record ahead of the end of the JobKeeper program.

The business conditions index increased from 8pts to 25pts – a new high for the survey – with profitability, employment and trading condition measurements reaching all-time highs.

Understandably though, the rocky road of the past year has resulted in a confidence dip to 15pts – three points down.

NAB’s chief economist Alan Oster described it overall as a “very solid survey result”. He notes that confidence remained “well above its long-run average” despite the survey revealing a dip.

“A very strong read for forward orders points to ongoing strength in activity, which hopefully sees conditions remain elevated, even as we pass through the end of the JobKeeper program,” said Oster.

Up to 150,000 jobs may have been lost as the JobKeeper came to an end, as estimated by Treasury. The NAB survey results reflect that businesses’ employment intentions remained well above average, suggesting that employment growth will balance out the job losses.

“Businesses are telling us activity continues to increase at a very healthy rate as we move past the rebound phase in activity,” Oster said.

“Overall, the recovery over the last year has been much more rapid than anyone could have forecast.”

Mining was the only industry to show a lift in confidence. By state, sentiment improved in Victoria and Western Australia, but eased elsewhere, the survey showed.

Industries to record the largest gains in operating conditions for March were manufacturing and construction. Overall, conditions ranked highest in the retail, finance, business and property services, and wholesale sectors.

The construction sector recorded the weakest conditions but was among the highest for confidence level.

Retail had the least optimistic outlook going by the month’s results, “suggesting that there may be moderation in conditions as consumer spending patterns normalise”, the NAB survey stated.

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