Signs of business confidence

SIGNS of slightly improving business confidence in future economic activity across Victoria’s regions have been welcomed by the state’s peak employer body.

A recent Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey found while widespread declines were still being reported in general business conditions and sales in regions, there had been a slight improvement in “outlook sentiment”.

The findings were released following a recent VECCI Regional Business Convention, where VECCI Gippsland Regional Council chair Mark Answerth outlined key Gippsland business priorities to State Premier Ted Baillieu.

The Survey of Business Trends and Prospects showed while there was still concern among regional businesses over the “near-term prospects” for the Australian and Victorian economies, fewer expected “weaker economic activity over the year ahead”.

VECCI chief executive Mark Stone said, however, regional respondents were “overall more likely to expect a weaker national outlook over the year ahead than their metropolitan counterparts” but “the number of respondents who felt this way was considerably less than that reported three months ago”.

“This reflects the determination of our regional centres to capitalise on their great potential for further economic growth,” he said.

“Last quarter more than half our survey respondents held a pessimistic outlook of national business conditions… now, the majority of businesses expect conditions for the year ahead to remain stable”.

Mr Stone said it was too early to tell if the improvement was sustainable; “this could be the beginning of more stable conditions that businesses are hoping for”.

The survey showed regional industries in education, health and community service sectors as well as recreation, personal and other services sectors reported “much stronger conditions than the average”.

Building and construction industry and wholesale and retail trade sectors, however, were “much more likely to report declines in general business conditions, sales, selling prices and profitability”.

Those findings will come as no surprise to Latrobe Valley builders who have reported deteriorating business conditions to The Express over past months.

Late last month, however, there were signs of improvement in the local real estate market with Real Estate Institute of Victoria’s September quarter figures showing a jump in the median Traralgon house prices. Though those figures also showed Morwell’s median price had slumped in the same quarter, it was still higher than for the same time last year.