FAR fewer businesses in the Upper Hunter say their trade is improving compared to 12 months ago, new data shows.
Figures released by the Hunter Research Foundation Centre at its Upper Hunter Economic Breakfast in Muswellbrook on Wednesday show that business performance softened further in the first half of 2019.
"Businesses reported that, on average, last quarter's forward orders had declined. Nationally, they also remain negative and well below average," the data reveals.
"Significantly fewer Upper Hunter businesses ... are now reporting that their performance is improving than did a year ago."
The data shows that business performance deteriorated in 2018 following a December 2017 high, when performance was "back at pre-GFC levels." Likely drivers of the uncertainty were a softening in global growth projections and a declining trend in thermal coal prices.
The data also showed:
- Thermal coal prices fell from $119.57 to $72.08 per metric tonne in the 12 months to June this year
- The median house price across the Upper Hunter fell by three per cent to $348,517
- Household spending remained relatively steady
- Business and household confidence softened sharply
On a brighter note, the Centre's lead economist Anthea Bill said the Hunter continued to exhibit low rates of unemployment, with jobs growth "strong".
In March, 2019, the Upper Hunter's unemployment rate was at 4.9 per cent, a slight decline from December at 5.2 per cent and below the rate for the Hunter (5.3 per cent) and just above that of NSW (4.5 per cent).
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