12 insights about the Australian economy during the March quarter


The Australian Economy - March quarter 2024

  1. Our economy grew a modest 0.1 per cent in the March quarter 2024 and 1.1 per cent compared to March quarter 2023. While this was the tenth successive quarter of GDP growth, GDP per capita fell for the fifth quarter in a row due to weak economic growth and strong population growth.
  2. Annual inflation continued to ease. The consumer price index rose 1.0 per cent in the March quarter and was up 3.6 per cent compared to March quarter 2023. This marked the fifth consecutive quarter of lower inflation compared to the previous year. Inflation for tradable goods slowed, as some imported goods like footwear, furniture and household appliances were cheaper than a year ago.
  3. Wages continued to grow. The wage price index rose 0.8 per cent in the quarter reaching three consecutive quarters of being above 4.0 per cent compared to a year ago.  The last time this happened was in March quarter 2009. During the quarter, private sector wages grew at a faster pace than those in the public sector. 
  4. The labour market remained relatively tight. The unemployment rate in the month of March remained largely unchanged since December at 3.9 per cent. The number of people employed was higher than a year ago, rising in line with population growth.    
  5. Labour productivity was flat. Output per hour worked was largely unchanged compared to the previous quarter and the March quarter 2023. Overall, we worked similar numbers of hours as the previous quarter, although hours worked in government-supported industries like health, education and social assistance grew faster.
  6. Households saved less. Households saved only 0.9 per cent of their income this quarter.  This contributed to total savings remaining below 2.0 per cent for a year, for the first time since March quarter 2008. Interest paid on mortgages rose by a more subdued 3.9 per cent, which was the slowest quarterly rise since March quarter 2022.
  7. People spent more on essential services. Household spending rose 0.4 per cent in the quarter, following a quarterly rise of 0.3 per cent in December. Spending on essential services contributed to the quarterly rise, with spending on electricity and gas rising 4.9 per cent. Compared to March quarter 2023, total household spending on goods fell 0.6 per cent.
  8. Taylor Swift and the Formula 1 got hearts racing. It was a huge quarter of live entertainment in Australia, as Taylor Swift and Pink performed sold-out concerts. The Australian Grand Prix was also held in the March quarter for the first time since 2019. Our accommodation, catering, and arts and recreation industries all felt the benefit of these events.
  9. Imports rose significantly. Most categories of imported goods rose in the quarter, reflecting a higher global supply of a broad range of commodities. Imports of consumption goods, such as medicines, clothing and household electrical items contributed to the overall rise of 9.5 per cent. Interruptions in the domestic manufacturing of fertilisers contributed to an increase in fertiliser imports.   
  10. Most industries built up their inventories.  With the imports of goods outpacing consumer demand in the quarter, wholesale and retail businesses accumulated $2.0 billion worth of inventories for sale in future quarters. Mining inventories also rose as mining production outpaced demand.
  11. Business investment dipped. Overall, business investment fell for the first time since June quarter 2020 but remained well above pre-pandemic levels. Engineering construction fell 4.8 per cent with reduced work on oil and gas projects. Purchases of new machinery and equipment rose by 2.0 per cent, as businesses fitted out recently completed warehouses and data centres and bought more vehicles.
  12. Public investment continued to slow. Public investment fell for the second quarter in a row but remained at high levels. Several education projects were completed as work on health projects slowed. Some major transport infrastructure projects are also nearing completion.
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