NAB Quarterly Australian Consumer Behaviour Survey Q1 2016

Consumer anxiety has now fallen for its third quarter in a row as recovery in the non-mining economy supports the labour market.

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Consumer anxiety falls again, but spending behaviour remains conservative

Consumer anxiety has now fallen for its third quarter in a row as recovery in the non-mining economy supports the labour market.

The NAB Consumer Anxiety Index fell to 60.4 points in Q1 2016 (61.1 points in Q4 2015) – its lowest level since Q2 2013 and well below the long-term average (61.8 points). Lower overall consumer anxiety was driven by diminished concerns in retirement funding, health expenditure and job security.

But with growing concern from consumers in the lead-up to the May federal budget, government policy has joined cost of living as the joint biggest contributor to overall consumer anxiety. Almost 27% of Australians rating their anxiety associated with government policy as “high”.

NAB Chief Economist Alan Oster said: “Overall, consumers are telling us they’re less anxious about the state of the world, but they continue to be focused on paying off debt and essential items like utilities, transport and groceries.

The NAB Consumer Behaviour Survey: Q1 2016 also found:

  • Women continue to be much more anxious than men particularly in the 30-49 age bracket, who have overtaken women over the age of 50 as the most stressed;
  • On a state-by-state basis anxiety remains lowest in the non-mining states, whilst consumers in SA/NT and WA recorded higher stress related to government policy, cost of living and job security (particularly in WA);
  • Financing retirement, providing for the family’s future and health expenses continue to be the main drivers of household financial stress – but are creating less financial stress than at the same time last year.
  • While there is still some nervousness in spending on discretionary goods, non-essential spending sentiment has steadily improved from its low in Q1 2015

“Improvements in the labour market have helped consumer spending gain momentum since late last year. We continue to expect moderate growth in consumer spending throughout 2016,” Mr Oster said.

About the Index

The NAB Quarterly Australian Behaviour Survey (formerly NAB Consumer Anxiety Report) was launched in April 2013 with the aim of assessing perceptions of consumer stress and wellbeing.

The NAB Consumer Anxiety Index provides a subjective assessment of over 2,100 Australian’s own concerns about their future spending/savings plans arising from job security, health, retirement, cost of living and government policy. The index provides detailed results by: geography; age; income; employment status; occupation; sex; and marital status.

For further analysis download the full report:

NAB Quarterly Australian Consumer Behaviour Survey Q1 2016 (PDF, 216KB)