Manufacturing growth “firmly positive,” Australian survey finds

Further evidence that manufacturing has started 2021 strongly has emerged, with the Australian Chamber – Westpac Survey of Industrial Trends showing the sector leading the nation’s economic recovery.

The quarterly survey recorded an “actual composite index” result of 60.4 for the beginning of the calendar year, up from 48.8 in the December quarter and 24 in June, which was the lowest result since the survey began in 1966.

Manufacturing was well into expansionary territory, said the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s acting CEO Jenny Lambert, “with output, new orders, number of employees and overtime worked rebounding strongly” and “firmly positive.”

“Expectations for orders and employees are well above the current level, indicating Australian manufacturers anticipate conditions will continue to improve this year,” she said.

“However, this positive business investment sentiment is likely to be tested as government support programs are wound back and the vaccination rollout encounters delays.”

Westpac chief economist Andrew Hanlan concluded that manufacturing had turned a corner, and, “Respondents are in a very positive mood, with a net 46% expecting the general business situation to improve over the next six months.”

Lambert gave the caveat that Covid-19 outbreaks and lockdowns were a possibility until vaccinations were properly rolled out, and could impede confidence.

The results correlate with with a positive start to the year tracked by the Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Manufacturing Index, which found the sector growing in December and January, and this intensifying over February.

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