Australians Are Less Anxious But Still Worried About Costs And Government Policy

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Consumer anxiety has fallen to its lowest level since mid 2013 but Australians are still worried about costs and what the government might do next.

The NAB Consumer Anxiety Index dropped for the second straight quarter to 60.1 points in the fourth quarter from 62.3, with lower levels of concern reported across all categories (as shown in the chart on the right).

Alan Oster, NAB Chief Economist, says the cost of living and government policy continue to be the single biggest causes of anxiety for Australians.

“Job security is causing the least stress, despite rising unemployment and a marked slowing in the domestic economy,” he says.

Various measures have shown sharply declining consumer confidence in Australia. While this index is for anxiety, it shows household spending is tightly controlled and that costs are still a big issue. The fall in anxiety, however, may be an early indicator of a small improvement in sentiment.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Tasmania, NSW and the ACT replaced South Australia/Northern Territory as the most anxious states, with Queensland now the least anxious state.
  • Those earning less than $35,000 are the most anxious group across all demographics, with consumer anxiety lowest for widows.
  • Women aged 50 plus are the most anxious consumers by gender and age.
  • Labourers replaced the self-employed as the most anxious group by employment type.
  • Consumer anxiety increased among full time workers, but remains highest for part timers.

Consumers are still spending more of the household budget on “essentials” such as utility bills, transport and medical expenses but there are also signs they have loosened their spending on some “non essentials”.

“With the holiday season approaching, Australian consumers appear to have also shifted some of their spending preferences towards non essentials, particularly home improvements, travel and entertainment,” Oster said.

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