Which States are winning the popularity contest?

Australia’s four most populous states accounted for a thumping 93.4 per cent of Australia’s population growth over the year to Q1 2015, with New South Wales (its total population increasing to 7,597,000), Victoria (5,915,000), Queensland (4,767,000) and Western Australia (2,587,000) being the four states in question.

You could more or less chuck a soggy beach towel over the rest.

The greatest gains in headcount across the most recent 12 month reporting period were seen in New South Wales (+101,200), Victoria (+97,500) and Queensland (+61,100), and as we’ve already seen that the recent “births” figures are almost certainly materially understated for the two most populous states.

Population growth rates have slowed dramatically in the resources states and territories, including in Queensland (+1.3 per cent), and particularly in Western Australia (+1.4 per cent).

Meanwhile population growth in the Northern Territory has dried up almost completely (+0.2 per cent), and with net interstate migration away from the Top End reaching its most rapid level on record (-3,400) population ‘growth’ is set to turn negative in due course.

Population growth has also slowed in another state which is suffering from a “brain drain” – South Australia – where net interstate migration of negative -3,000 has helped to pull the rate of population growth down to just +0.8 per cent, though it still needs to slow further.

The ‘Festival State’ has not created a single full time job on a net basis since 2007 and the result has been a horribly increasing rate of unemployment.

Components of growth

Net overseas migration remains very strong in New South Wales (+67,000) and Victoria (+55,000), but has clearly slowed in the resources states as the mining construction boom begins to fade into the rear view mirror.

The most interesting trend for me over the last few years has been to note just how few people have been choosing to leave Sydney and Melbourne for cheaper or warmer climes (refer to the net interstate migration chart below), instead opting to stay put for the relative security of their capital city employment.

That said, I do know more than a few people – including myself, in fact – who have recently decided to relocate from Sydney to Brisbane.

Brisbane is not only comparatively inexpensive, it also has a warmer climate and is considerably less crowded – and thus if the jobs market is creating the requisite employment it should be a no-brainer from my perspective!

The data below shows that the trickle of Sydneysiders moving to Queensland has only been a trickle through this cycle to date, and most certainly not a flood.

That said, net interstate migration for the March quarter into Queensland (+1,300) was plenty stronger than we saw in the prior corresponding period (+700) taking annual net interstate migration into the Sunshine State back up to +6,200 from its recent nadir.

Totting that little lot up we can see in the chart below that population growth has slowed significantly in Western Australia (+35,300) and Queensland (+61,100), and has slowed further in South Australia (+13,900).

On the other hand annual population growth remains supremely strong in New South Wales (+101,200) and Victoria (+97,500) despite the under-reporting of births over the past six months.

Housing supply

On an obliquely related note, although I can’t remember exactly where I read it, somewhere this week was a piece which suggested that the construction of 10,000 apartments over four years at Sydney’s Green Square would form part of a “tsunami” of oversupply in Sydney.

I’m not sure if this was some kind of gee-up, but as you can see the in the figures above with the state population having increased by close to +400,000 over the past four years alone…I dunno, but I reckon someone’s having a giraffe.

Whatever the case, New South Wales has an existing stock of close to 3 million dwellings, and to my knowledge there has not been any recorded example of such a tiny fraction of additional construction having a material impact on a capital city property market.

Like London, Sydney is a city which is increasingly constrained in terms of its land supply in desirable locations, and is a city which is more or less permanently in a position of requiring new supply.

Now granted we’re presently constructing proportionately far too many of those “shoebox” type developments – no arguments there – but as the Greater Sydney population continues to mushroom over time any such localised examples of oversupply will only ever be temporary in nature.

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Pete Wargent


Pete Wargent is a Chartered Accountant, Chartered Secretary and has a Financial Planning Diploma. He’s achieved financial freedom at the age of 33 - as detailed in his book ‘Get a Financial Grip – A Simple Plan for Financial Freedom’. Pete now manages his investment portfolio, travels and works as a consultant in the finance industry from time to time. Visit his blog

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