State an 'economic basket case'

TASMANIA is ``locked at the bottom of Australia's economic performance table'', according to the latest analysis of state economies released today. 

The CommSec report ``State of the States'' says Tasmania is under-performing all other economies in the country.

The report says improvements in housing finance and a lift in retail spending may provide an economic boost.

Both major political parties made economic statements yesterday following Premier Lara Giddings's announcement on Thursday that the state election would be held on March 15.

The Liberals promised reforms for small business, and the government  provided an update on its two-year economic development plan.

CommSec's quarterly report shows that Western Australia remains the nation's best-performing economy.

``Tasmania lags all other economies on all of the indicators except for being sixth-strongest in housing finance,'' the report says.

Housing finance is up 20 per cent on a year ago, but still down 11 per cent on decade average. 

The report says this strength may provide the state economy with a platform for improvement in coming quarters.

``But stagnant population growth is reducing activity across the economy, with added weaknesses in commercial, engineering construction and business investment.'' 

Tasmania also had the weakest result on retail spending in the country but saw a 5.8 per cent increase.

``If this leads to increased employment, there will be potential for stronger economic momentum in coming months,'' the report says.

  The state's jobless rate is the highest in the nation at 7.7 per cent, a 29 per cent increase on the decade average.

Population growth in the state is  below average but did lift slightly in the June quarter.

The report looks at eight key indicators such as retail spending and population growth and uses decade averages to assess each of the states and territories to create its  performance report.

The mining industry kept Western Australia on top of the economic table, followed by the Northern Territory, the ACT, Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

The CommSec report noted that South Australia and Tasmania were at the bottom of the table with underperforming economies.

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