The Mid West is experiencing one of its biggest periods of economic growth, according to Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief economist John Nicolaou.
Speaking on day two the Mid West Economic and Resources Summit, Mr Nicolaou described the region’s economy as a “glass more than half full.”
“The (Mid West) is a region that has gone through some very strong growth,” he said.
“You’ve got unrivalled levels of growth overall, an unemployment rate that continues to fall, you’ve got population that’s growing at near-record levels and people coming in from interstate and overseas to take up the opportunities that exist.”
Mr Nicolaou said the WA economy grew by a staggering 14.6 per cent over the past year, even dwarfing that of China’s.
“You’ve got a state that ultimately is the driving force behind the national economy,” he said.
CCIWA tips the state’s growth to be around 7.5 per cent this year and 7 per cent the following year due to investment, a resurgence in the housing sector and an increase in the volume of exports.
Its figures show last year WA accounted for 30 per cent of Australia’s business investment, 50 per cent of exports, 60 per cent of domestic economic growth, and 100 per cent of jobs growth.
According to Mr Nicolaou, another performance indictor was unemployment, which had fallen to a low of 3.6 per cent across the state.
He said it was a great indictor of where WA was at economically, but also highlighted a significant issue about labour shortages for the business community.
“The Mid West has an unemployment rate of 2.4 per cent, with 749 people unemployed in the region overall,” he said.
“So, if I am complaining about labour shortages being an issue for WA overall, it must be a particular issue for a growing region like the Mid West and really does highlight the need for a mature debate on how to boost our labour supply.”
Mr Nicolaou called on the community to be more willing to source labour from overseas as a “fundamentally important” part of the state’s growth.
He said WA had become somewhat reliant on mining, but was not a “one trick pony”.
“We still have a manufacturing sector that continues to grow strongly and provide a very important contribution to the state’s overall growth.”
Mr Nicolaou identifi ed concerns such as overseas events and a rise in the cost of living, which had led to an “aggressive decline” in consumer confidence and a hike in the cost of goods and services.
“We’ve gone from a nation of spenders, from a consumer perspective, to a nation of savers since the global financial crisis,” Mr Nicolaou said.
“That’s not a bad thing at all, it’s actually a very good thing to see an economy start to save.
“But it does have implications for some parts of the economy as we adjust to a new consumer in this post global financial crisis world.”