The manufacturing sector got some good news this morning, with positive data from the Australian Chamber-Westpac Survey of Industrial Trends.
The index strengthened by another 2.5 points in March to 63.0, continuing gains after dropping to 55.0 in June last year.
New orders drove gains in Q1, with increases in orders, output, overtime and employment.
The survey recorded moderate growth in new house building (now slowing) and more activity in home renovation. The manufacturing sector has also benefited from increased competitiveness due to a weaker Aussie dollar, with the AUD down 28% since 2013.
Exports recorded modest growth, with “a net 8% of respondents reporting a rise in export deliveries”. Improvements have been offset by a drop in mining investment and lacklustre consumer spending.
Business expectations have improved by to 63.8 points in March on a forward 12-month basis, up 1.6 points from December. The labour market component of the survey reported a rise to 54.5 in March, up from 51.7.
Although the survey said that a reading on that level points to strong momentum in the jobs market, the latest ABS figures on the jobs market reported an increase in unemployment to 5.9% from 5.7% in January.
The Australian Chamber-Westpac Survey of Industrial Trends is the longest running business survey in Australia, commencing in 1966.