Consumer confidence has collapsed, sliding to its lowest point since the Gillard prime ministership as Labor supporters despair about jobs, the economy and business profitability.
The latest result, a consumer sentiment index number of 99.5 means pessimists outweigh optimists by 0.5 percentage points, the first time that has happened since May 2013.
It's a spectacular dive from the November post-election high of 110.3 where optimists outweighed pessimists by 10.3 percentage points.
A breakdown prepared for Fairfax Media by Westpac and the Melbourne Institute shows the collapse is driven entirely by Labor supporters. Traditionally optimistic about the economy, Labor supporters are now more pessimistic than at any time in the past 13 years.
The confidence index among Labor supporters has slid to 84.5, meaning pessimists outweigh optimists by an unusual 15.5 percentage points.
In contrast, the Coalition feel the best they have felt since 2010 with optimists outweighing pessimists by 15.4 points.
Westpac's Matthew Hassan said the plunge since November reflected a run of bad news about the car industry, manufacturing generally and Qantas.
''Asked which news items they recalled, over two thirds of consumers nominated news on 'economic conditions' with most viewing the news as negative,'' he said.
''Within this broad topic, 37 per cent recalled news specifically about 'business profitability' - the highest level of recall since the global financial crisis in 2008 and prior to that since the sharemarket crash in 1987.
''Consumers also had a very high recall rate for employment-related news with 45 per cent reporting items on this topic, the highest reading since we began running these questions in 1976.''
Westpac's separate unemployment expectations index has climbed 15 per cent since the September election.
''The index is at an extreme high only eclipsed by readings during 2008-09 and the recessions in the early 1990s and early 1980s,'' Mr Hassan said. ''Higher readings indicate more consumers expect unemployment to rise.
The pessimism isn't yet evident in sales. The consumers who agreed that now was ''a good time to buy a major household item'' outnumbered those who did not by 35 percentage points. The latest retail sales figures show spending up 6.2 per cent in the year to January, comfortably above the rates of inflation and population growth.
The results add to pressure on the Treasurer to construct a budget that kindles rather than dampens confidence.
The official employment numbers for February, due for release on Thursday, will show whether Australia's unemployment rate has remained at or above the 10-year high of 6 per cent it hit in January.
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