WA's economy expands amid global pandemic

International border closures loom as the greatest threat to a coronavirus-defying economic resurgence in Western Australia.

© Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS WA’s economy has transitioned from recovery to expansion during the coronavirus pandemic.

A new report by WA’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has highlighted the stunning expansion of the state’s economy, which is projected to record its strongest annual growth in almost a decade despite the global pandemic.

The domestic economy is forecast to grow by 3.5 per cent, while unemployment has fallen to 4.6 per cent – its lowest rate since December 2013.

State and federal government stimulus packages, record low interest rates and generous home building grants are identified as influential factors.

But the report published on Tuesday highlights the strength of the mining sector, and in particular the iron ore price, as the key to WA’s performance.

“A cocktail of surging commodity prices and robust demand from WA’s largest trading partner boosted activity in the mineral resources sector and delivered the state budget an unexpected windfall of cash,” it said.

“And with mining comprising a record 43 per cent of the economy, now more than ever when commodity markets are strong, the WA economy is strong.

Video: Analysis: Victoria’s latest COVID-19 figures (Sky News Australia)

“Indeed, the size of WA’s economy has now rocketed past the level it was before the pandemic, and most economic indicators are flashing bright green.”

The report said three snap lockdowns in five months had inflicted “deep and far-reaching impacts on the WA business community” but the swift containment of outbreaks had prevented sustained damage to the economy.

Household spending was expected to remain strong, bolstered by the continued vaccine rollout.

But the chamber warned no industry had been spared from skills shortages tied to domestic and international border closures.

“Overseas migration is historically WA’s largest source of population growth, and roughly three quarters of our workforce arrivals in the previous mining boom hailed from other nations,” the report said.

“The longer international borders remain clasped shut to international workers, the greater the risk this poses to Western Australia’s economic future.

“Attaining a high rate of vaccination is the only viable path to successfully moving beyond the economic and health risks of COVID-19 and reserving the terms ‘snap lockdown’ and ‘hard border’ to history textbooks.”

Premier Mark McGowan has refused to rule out deploying such measures even when 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated.

Mr McGowan, in his capacity as treasurer, is expected to deliver a surplus of up to $5 billion when he hands down the state budget on September 9.

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