Petrol prices falling to comfortably below $2 a litre in most places has provided a further boost to confidence, although a new survey still shows pessimists outweighing optimists.
The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index – a pointer to future household spending – rose by a further 1.3 per cent to 94.6 – still below the key 100 level.
Household inflation expectations were steady at a 5.8 per cent, remaining close to a recent 10-year high, despite lower petrol prices.
ANZ head of Australian economic David Plank said declining terminal gate prices for petrol and the flow-through of the reduction in petrol excise should see prices even lower in coming weeks.
“This should lead to lower inflation expectations and, along with the Easter holidays, this is likely to boost sentiment,” Mr Plank said
The Australian Institute of Petroleum weekly report showed the national weekly average for petrol prices fell by a record 19.1 cents to 174.3 cents a litre, extending the 13.3 cents drop in the previous week.
Last month’s federal budget temporarily halved fuel excise to 22 cents a litre as part of a cost-of-living package.
Despite unsettled confidence, the CommBank household spending intentions index jumped 9.2 per cent in March to a record high of 177.1.
The index – which combines an analysis of CBA payments data, loan applications and publicly available search activity on Google Trends – strong gains in transport, travel and retailing.
“The stronger March figures underscore our view that the Australian economy has gained considerable momentum by the end of the first quarter, and is set for robust growth in 2022,” CBA chief economist Stephen Halmarick said.
“The stronger economic picture is also consistent with our expectations of an RBA rate hike cycle to begin in June, though we expect this cycle to be relatively shallow.”
Meanwhile, on the election campaign trail, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is promising that 1.3 million jobs will be created within the next five years, building on the strong job gains in recent years.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said there are nearly two million more Australians now in work than under the Labor party, pushing the unemployment rate down to four per cent, the equal lowest in some 48 years.
“Female unemployment is at it lowest level since 1974,” he told Sky News .
However, a new survey by the Linkedin network found two in three Australian women want more flexibility in their work.
Its research found that while the pandemic has increased opportunities in workplace arrangements, challenges remain for female workers seeking greater flexibility.
Half of those seeking more flexibility were forced to take a pay cut, the survey of 1018 respondents found.
At the same time, a quarter of women who left a job because of a lack of flexible work say they lost their confidence and 20 per cent decided to take a career break.
LinkedIn director Prue Cox says flexibility is becoming a critical factor in the workplace.
“If employees feel their needs aren’t being met with flexible working arrangements, we could see a ‘Flexidus’ of women walking away from organisations and roles that don’t support the new world of work,” she said.
LinkedIn has introduced a new feature to its network where members can add a “career break” to their profile to demonstrate any period of time out of the workforce.
The goal of this is to normalise the incidence of career breaks and to remove stigma in a professional setting.