There’s another statistic which supports the belief that the Australian economy is travelling a bit better than we thought.

Car sales in April were up on March’s figure, echoing a rise in March in retail sales, housing finance and building approvals … then there are the “rubbery” jobs figures for April and the seeming easing in the unemployment rate.

Car industry figures showed a sharp, 19% fall in cars retailed by dealers in April (from March and nearly 24% from April, 2008) but a completely different picture has emerged from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which revealed a small rise in car sales in April from March.

The ABS reported this morning that “seasonally adjusted — the April 2009 seasonally adjusted estimate for total sales of new motor vehicles (70 814) increased by 0.9% compared with March 2009.” In March the ABS said sales were 70,279. That’s a long way from the big fall in April reported by the industry because their figures were raw and not adjusted to take account of Easter falling in the month, a point that caught some unsuspecting writers. There were two more public holidays in April than in April 2008 as Easter fell in the month, against in March last year. The ABS said this morning in its release:

On a seasonally adjusted basis, April 2009 sales of other vehicles decreased by 3.5% when compared with March 2009. During the same period sports utility vehicles increased by 3.4% and passenger vehicles by 1.8%. Seasonally adjusted – New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory all recorded seasonally adjusted sales in April 2009 above those in March 2009. Northern Territory had the highest increase of 13.9% while the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland increased by 7.7%, 2.5% and 2.3% respectively, during this period.  Of the remaining states and territories, Tasmania recorded the highest decrease of 5.4% for the same period, followed by South Australia with 2.1%, Victoria 1.1% and Western Australia 0.2%, the ABS said.

The Bureau said April’s car sales were off 20.3% from April 2008, but this was a slight improvement on the 22.6% drop in the year to March. It is still not good news for the car industry, but shows there’s a bit more life in the sector than some analysts (who have advocated that we follow Germany, the US and UK in adopting a car scrapping bonus) believe. 

Peter Fray

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