(Australian Associated Press)
Australian shoppers are more jolly going into this Christmas season compared to the same time last year.
Consumer anxiety in the December quarter fell to its lowest level in a year, and is below its long term average, National Australia Bank research shows.
Strong employment growth and a falling unemployment rate may be buoying confidence, amid improving signs of life from the non-mining sector, NAB said.
The fall in job security concerns offset worries about cost of living, which remains the biggest contributor to overall consumer anxiety, but less so than in the third quarter.
“It is still of some concern that almost one in three consumers rate their anxiety levels from cost of living pressures as high,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster said.
Stress related to government policy was again the second-biggest contributor, but was notably lower this quarter.
The overall drop in anxiety has yet to translate into stronger spending, with paying down debt still the main priority for consumers, NAB said.
Financing retirement, providing for the family’s future and health expenses continue to weigh on the minds of consumers, but again concerns are lower compared with the previous quarter and year.
As a result, key essentials such as transport, utilities and health continue to dominate spending behaviours.
And while non-essentials shopping was broadly unchanged during the quarter, it was much more robust than at the same time last year.
“This bodes well for a stronger Christmas trading period,” Mr Oster said.