Statistics on the Australian economy

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on May 19, 2022 Fact Checked
Statistics on the Australian economy

Ever wanted a quick and dirty guide to see how Australia’s economy is faring? See the latest GDP, inflation and unemployment figures, plus more.

Some of Australia’s key economic statistics you’ll find on this page include:

1. Australian Population

Australia has enjoyed strong population growth over the past 20 years. However the rate of growth slowed through the pandemic as international borders were largely closed. Still, the nation edges ever closer to 26 million.

2. GDP Growth

GDP or Gross Domestic Product is the sum total of all that Australia produces. The common definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Australia avoided a recession during the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009, with a lot of our GDP boosted by strong iron ore and coal exports. During Covid we weren’t so lucky, with GDP growth dropping 0.3% in March 2020, and 7% in June 2020. The September quarter experienced 3.3% growth, but it dropped again in the September quarter of 2021 - down by 1.9%.

3. Unemployment Rate

Unemployment tracked sharply upwards during the pandemic to rates not seen in many years. The unemployment rate is a calculation based on those who can work presently looking for work. Even if you work one hour per week, that’s considered employed. This is an international definition for consistent measurements across countries. This is why looking at the underemployment rate is also important - those who are in work but aren’t getting as many hours as they’d like.

4. Participation Rate

The participation rate is the percentage of the civilian population aged 15+ that either works or is willing to work, so it includes both the employed and the unemployed. Retirees and people permanently unable to work are considered non-participants. A participation rate over the low-60 per cent range is considered pretty line-ball among developed countries. Recently, Australia has enjoyed a higher participation rate than other leading countries such as the UK and US.

5. Inflation Rate (CPI growth)

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measurement the price of a defined basket of goods. The list of the basket of goods is detailed more here, or on the ABS website. This is a weighted index and changes over time, particularly for technology goods. The inflation rate is the percentage growth of this index over time, typically expressed in annual and quarterly growth rates.

Inflation in the early 2020s was at near record lows, and headline rates even experienced deflation (negative CPI growth) as the cost of childcare plunged with the government’s temporary subsidy. High consumer demand (thanks to low interest rates and government stimulus) mixed with global supply shortages have generally caused inflation to rise sharply through late 2021 and 2022.

6. Wages Growth

Wages growth is released quarterly. Wages have largely been flat over the past couple of decades, however as the pandemic becomes endemic, wages are picking up. However, with inflation also running hot, workers are realistically experiencing falling real incomes if their wage growth does not outpace this. Wages growth minus inflation is often called real wages growth.

7. RBA Cash Rate Target

The Reserve Bank’s cash rate target is the interest rate on which most financial products' interest rates are based. Over the past 30 years, the RBA’s cash rate target has generally been trending down. While we never saw negative rates like in parts of Europe, various extra stimulus by the RBA saw the overnight rate track close to zero. The target hit a record low of 0.10% in November 2020.

The RBA’s remit is to promote financial stability in Australia. The cash rate can affect both wages growth and inflation. If the economy is running too hot, the RBA may want to increase the cash rate to subdue demand, and vice versa.

8. Household Savings Ratio

Data on the household savings ratio is released quarterly alongside GDP stats. The household savings ratio is calculated by dividing household net saving (household net disposable income less household final consumption expenditure) by household net disposable income.

During the pandemic the ratio increased to near 50 year highs as lockdowns prevented many people from spending money. Many household members managed to keep their jobs, while generous stimulus payments meant people could hoard large sums of money.


Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

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Harrison is Savings.com.au's Assistant Editor. Prior to joining Savings in January 2020, he worked for some of Australia's largest comparison sites and media organisations. With a keen interest in the economy, housing policy, and personal finance, Harrison strives to deliver and edit news and guides that are engaging, thought-provoking, and simple to read.

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