Western Australia's economy and international trade

Research and analysis
This page contains the WA Economic Profile and other publications that present information on Western Australia's gross state product, industries, labour market, investment, export commodities and markets.

Western Australia has an export-oriented economy, with almost half of Australia's annual exports of goods originating from the state including minerals, petroleum, agri-food and specialised manufactured goods. The state also attracts many international visitors and students each year. These export industries support employment across the Western Australian economy. 

The Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation publishes the following profiles on Western Australia's economy and international trade:

  • the monthly WA Economic Profile, including the COVID-19 supplement (Chinese and Japanese language versions are also available)
  • monthly profiles of Western Australia's iron ore, LNG and battery minerals industries, 3 industries that are major contributors to the state's investment and exports
  • bi-annual profiles of Western Australia's trade with its major export markets. 

These documents can be accessed below. Please contact Mike Thomas for editorial inquiries or subscribe to the monthly economic profile updates.

Current economic conditions

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The Western Australian economy is recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This section provides information on the impact of COVID-19 on the Western Australian economy and prospects for growth.

The Western Australian economy (gross state product) grew in real terms by 1.4% in 2019‑20, the only state economy along with Tasmania to grow during the year. Western Australia’s gross state income rose by 8.0% in 2019-20, due to the improvement in the state’s terms of trade (the ratio of export prices to import prices) from higher iron ore, gold and nickel prices.

The composition of Western Australia’s economic growth in 2019‑20 was significantly affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Mining industry activity continued through the COVID‑19 pandemic and, in aggregate, increased production volumes in 2019‑20. The combination of higher production volumes, higher minerals prices and lower growth in other industries resulted in the mining industry’s share of the Western Australian economy rising to a record high of 43% in 2019-20.

Other parts of Western Australia’s economy did not fare as well in 2019‑20. The construction industry was the main detractor from the state's economic growth because of the completion of major mining projects and declining dwelling investment. COVID‑19‑related restrictions led to declines in activity in a number of industries, including transport and accommodation and food services. The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry also detracted from growth, with crop production in 2019‑20 not matching 2018-19 levels.

Western Australia’s economy has benefitted from the State’s success in containing the spread of COVID-19. By November 2020, Western Australia had regained 98.5% of the decline in employment between February and May 2020. Employment growth looks set to continue in the coming months, with internet job vacancies reaching over 19,000 in November 2020, the highest level since March 2013 and 26% higher than in November 2019. The large increase in Western Australia’s job vacancies reflects both the demand for workers from a recovering economy and labour shortages in parts of the economy that had relied on overseas and interstate workers.

The outlook for business investment in Western Australia hinges on a sustained recovery in the global economy from the COVID-19 pandemic. The construction of major iron ore projects, which have supported business investment in recent years, will be complete by 2022 and major new projects will be needed to sustain the current level of business investment in the state. Delayed investment decisions on major LNG projects has increased the uncertainty over a large share of potential business investment. In contrast, capital expenditure on lithium projects is likely to resume in 2020-21, while higher prices for gold and nickel are likely to attract new investment into these industries. There is also growing interest in investment opportunities in emerging sectors such as hydrogen and renewable energy.

The WA Government released the WA Recovery Plan on 26 July 2020 to assist the state’s economy return to its pre‑pandemic growth trajectory as quickly as possible and ensure Western Australia gets back to becoming a thriving and innovative community to live, work, visit and do business in. The WA Recovery Plan is structured around 21 priority streams and outlines the economic support the WA Government has provided during the COVID-19 pandemic and its priorities projects to further drive recovery.

The WA Government’s initial economic support targeted industries most affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic, such as providing funding to secure regional air services, grants to small tourism operators and marketing campaigns to encourage locals to holiday in Western Australia. This has provided support for tourism businesses across the state in the absence of interstate and international visitors. Support for the housing industry from both the WA Government’s housing stimulus package and the Australian Government’s Homebuilder Scheme has led to housing finance and building approvals rising significantly. The value of housing finance commitments rose 85% and the number of dwelling approvals rose 129% between June and October 2020.

The WA Recovery Plan also includes actions to deliver long‑term objectives such as investing in renewable energy and new technologies, building community infrastructure and unlocking barriers to investment. It also provides support to help industries adapt, including funding for the WA International Education Recovery and Renewal Plan, which was launched in December 2020 and articulates proactive initiatives to support the international education sector to reposition, recover and achieve long-term sustainability.

Western Australia's top 10 trading partners

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Western Australia trades with markets all over the world. This section shows the rankings of Western Australia's trading partners.

Total trade

The table below shows Western Australia's top 10 markets for total trade in goods (exports and imports) by value of trade in the 2019-20 financial year.

Rank in 2019-20 Market Value A$ billion Share of WA total (%)
1 China (Mainland) 104.4 47.9
2 Japan 25.3 11.6
3 United Kingdom 13.9 6.4
4 South Korea 11.0 5.1
5 United States 9.0 4.2
6 Singapore 8.6 4.0
7 Thailand 4.7 2.1
8 Malaysia 4.6 2.1
9 Taiwan 3.9 1.8
10 Hong Kong (SAR of China) 3.7 1.7

Source: ABS

Exports

The table below shows Western Australia's top 10 markets for exports of goods by value of trade in the 2019-20 financial year.

Rank in 2019-20 Market Value A$ billion Share of WA total (%)
1 China (Mainland) 98.5 53.6
2 Japan 22.7 12.3
3 United Kingdom 13.0 7.1
4 South Korea 10.4 5.7
5 Singapore 7.1 3.8
6 United States 4.2 2.3
7 Taiwan 3.6 2.0
8 Hong Kong (SAR of China) 3.6 1.9
9 Malaysia 2.9 1.6
10 Indonesia 2.2 1.2

Source: ABS

Imports

The table below shows Western Australia's top 10 markets for imports of goods by value of trade in the 2019-20 financial year.

Rank in 2019-20 Market Value A$ billion Share of WA total (%)
1 China (Mainland) 5.9 17.3
2 United States 4.9 14.4
3 Thailand 3.2 9.4
4 Japan 2.7 7.8
5 Malaysia 1.7 5.0
6 Papua New Guinea 1.6 4.6
7 Singapore 1.6 4.6
8 Indonesia 1.0 3.0
9 Germany 1.0 3.0
10 United Arab Emirates 0.9 2.6

Source: ABS

International visitors

The table below shows Western Australia's top 10 markets for international visitors by value of spend in the 2019-20 financial year.

Rank in 2019-20 Market Spend A$ million Share of WA total (%)
1 China (Mainland) 278 16.3
2 United Kingdom 178 10.4
3 Singapore 163 9.5
4 Malaysia 135 7.9
5 United States 81 4.7
6 Germany 71 4.2
7 New Zealand 70 4.1
8 India 56 3.3
9 Indonesia 55 3.2
10 Hong Kong (SAR of China) 51 3.0

Source: TRA

International students

The table below shows Western Australia's top 10 markets for international students by number of enrolments in the 2019 calendar year.

Rank in 2019 Market Number of enrolments Share of WA total (%)
1 India 8,913 16.7
2 China (Mainland) 8,404 15.7
3 Malaysia 3,060 5.7
4 Brazil 2,312 4.3
5 Bhutan 2,228 4.2
6 Nepal 1,868 3.5
7 Pakistan 1,752 3.3
8 Colombia 1,713 3.2
9 Vietnam 1,588 3.0
10 Singapore 1,468 2.7

Source: DET

Documents

WA Economic Profile and COVID-19 Supplement - December 2020
WA Economic Profile and COVID-19 Supplement Chinese Language Version - November 2020
WA Economic Profile and COVID-19 Supplement Japanese Language Version - November 2020
Page reviewed 21 January 2021