Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) business conditions and confidence edged lower this quarter. While conditions have eased over the past two quarters, they remain well above average, though confidence has declined to below average levels.

According to Alan Oster, NAB Group Chief Economist:

“Accommodation, cafes & restaurants saw an improvement in conditions in the quarter after reporting deteriorating conditions last quarter. This return to positive territory leaves the retail industry as the only industry to report deteriorating conditions, continuing its trend of weak outcomes over recent years”

“Conditions in business services, health and finance in particular remain at favourable levels, though all other sectors except for retail currently report above average conditions” s

“The strongest SME business readings in Victoria. Western Australia is weakest, and the only state to record negative conditions – and it has been lagging the other states for some time.”

Confidence for SMEs remains weakest in the retail sector, though wholesale and finance also report worsening confidence at present. Confidence was highest in the manufacturing and construction industries.

Manufacturing and construction currently see the best outlook for their sectors, while retail continues to expect the deterioration in conditions to continue” said Mr Oster.

Demand continues to be the most significant constraint on SME output, followed by difficulty in finding suitable labour.

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