Finance News

High anxiety: Cost of living troubles consumers

The cost of living remains the biggest anxiety for consumers facing mounting utility bills, housing and transport costs, with women more anxious than men and those without a partner recording the biggest rise in unease.

Workers in New South Wales are more anxious about their jobs, despite the state having the lowest unemployment rate in Australia.

NAB's national Consumer Anxiety Index, released on Thursday, rose 0.3 per cent to 61.7 points in the three months to March, fuelled by heightened concerns about job security in NSW and Canberra.

NSW overtook Western Australia last month as the state with the lowest unemployment rate at 5.8 per cent, compared with WA's 5.9 per cent. The national rate was unchanged at 6 per cent.


NSW has added more than 25,000 jobs in the first two months of this year. NAB chief economist Alan Oster said people living in rural and remote areas, earning $35,000 to $50,000 registered the highest consumer anxiety.

''Despite job security rating as the lowest concern overall by consumers, the level of anxiety about jobs has risen more than 5 points since mid-2013,'' Mr Oster said.

''With NAB expecting further softness in the labour market, we may well see job security continue to climb as a concern for consumers.''

Victoria, which has faced bleak news with the closure of Ford, Holden and Toyota, and sharing Qantas staff cuts, had the third lowest levels of consumer anxiety, behind Western Australia and Tasmania.

Mr Oster said of the 2050 people who responded to the survey, 37 per cent rated their anxiety over job security as ''medium to high'', compared with 33 per cent in three months to last December.

He said the cost of living was the main source of anxiety, with most concerns coming from women aged 30 to 39, people who were divorced, unemployed or whose highest tertiary qualification was a diploma.

''The most important influences impacting cost of living include utility bills, housing and transport costs,'' Mr Oster said.

Utility costs contributed most to anxiety in NSW and ACT, Victoria and Queensland. Housing costs were of greatest concern in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, while food prices were the biggest worry in WA.

Those who worked part-time or were sales or clerical workers were particularly worried, the survey found. Men aged 18 to 29 and retirees registered the lowest anxiety.

Mr Oster said overall Australians were slightly less worried about their health, with 42 per cent registering ''medium'' or ''high'' anxiety compared with 43.5 per cent in the December quarter.

Source: The Age

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