The March Quarter 2019 Sensis Business Index, released Tuesday 7 May 2019, reveals Northern Territory (NT) small and medium businesses (SMB) remain the least positive and least confident in Australia.
The report, which measures SMB activity, expectations and confidence over a three-month period, has found that despite key performance gains in the December 2018 report, SMB confidence in the NT has fallen seven points to +20, 14 points below the nation’s average and equal lowest alongside Western Australia.
Speaking to the results, Sensis Chief Executive Officer John Allan said, “When looking at the March (2019) Quarter Sensis Business Index report, it’s clear SMBs in the Northern Territory continue to lack confidence.
“Although confidence levels have shifted each quarter, NT businesses have remained the least positive since September 2016.”
Decreasing confidence was widespread across the Territory. The balance fell 11 points in Darwin to +25, 10 points below the metropolitan average, while regional confidence dropped 17 points to +3, 28 points behind the regional average and the lowest in the nation.
“On a more positive note, the report also shows NT SMBs to be less negative about the state of their businesses, with quarterly expectations for sales, employment prices and profitability improving substantially to positive balances,” Mr Allan continued.
According to the report, concerns about the state and national economies drove confidence down.
Three in five SMBs believe the economy to be slowing while only 8% feel it is growing, resulting a net balance of -52, 28 points lower than the last survey and the lowest score recorded in Australia.
NT businesses also remain the most pessimistic about the prospects for the economy (-29 vs +2 national average).
Support for the Territory Government fell three points remaining negative at -5. A lack of incentives for small businesses and tenders to big companies rather than local SMBs were among the main criticisms.
On the national stage, whilst SMB support for the Federal Government in the lead up to the election has been positive, in the NT, SMB support for the Government took a significant dip and is 12 points lower at -8. This is the only negative balance recorded across the country and 20 points under the national average.
“It is unsurprising to see a lack of support for the Federal Government in the NT. As SMBs continue the trend of falling sales and profitability, businesses in the north aren’t feeling supported by the Federal Government,” Mr Allan concluded.