I recently attended a breakfast hosted by 'Women in Focus', where CommSec's Chief Economist, Craig James, presented their analysis of the local economic climate.
Craig did a great job in making me feel very intelligent as he explained the various economic indicators in an incredibly accessible style. In summary, at 5.3% our unemployment rate is stable and relatively strong; the inflation rate is under control; property pricing is growing; and the share market is strengthening. Australia's economic position is actually quite solid - but there is a air of pessimism. (Personally, I think the pessimism in part reflects the fact that financial, retail and media sectors feel very soft, sectors in which a large majority of CBD employees work)!
Low consumer confidence has influenced debt levels over the last few years, that is households have been paying down their debt and keeping it low - and whilst we aren't spending our discretionary income in shopping centres we are spending up big on travel and cars.
Medium term good news (for me) is that the Australian dollar will once again rise and expected to reach $1.08 late in the year - good news because I'm in the throes of planning a trip to Maui.
Along with Craig's presentation, which is here, I also recommend Women In Focus as a business/networking group to anyone currently involved with, or thinking of setting up, a small business. They are a great resource of information and support.