ME consulting economist Jeff Oughton said just a third of households reported an increase in annual income over the past year. The number of households getting more pay actually fell through 2018-19.
Combined with worries about the jobs market there were increasing fears in many households about their financial strength.
“It’s clear from the latest report that there are increased concerns around job availability and under-employment,” he said.
“The number of workers who felt it would be difficult to find a new job increased by 16 per cent to over one in two employees which is the highest recorded since late 2016.”
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has urged state and federal governments to lift wages for public servants, arguing current caps have effectively “cemented” low income growth across the broader economy.
The federal government has rejected the calls, saying it is focused on delivering services to ordinary taxpayers and keeping the budget in surplus.
Financial comfort did increase for high-income households which covers those with more than $200,000 in income a year or who hold more than $1 million in their superannuation.
About 40 per cent of surveyed households spend all their monthly income. One in five households said they did not think they could raise $3000 in an emergency.
Almost half of respondents ranked the cost of necessities as their biggest worry with 34 per cent putting cash savings on hand as a major concern.
The survey covers the first signs of stabilisation in the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets where prices have stopped falling.
But Mr Oughton said while households were optimistic about the overall property market, the large level of debt being carried by many Australians was front of mind.
“It’s evident that despite the latest monetary policy changes, there remains high levels of housing debt worry and actual payment stress among Australians,” he said.
Economists are expecting figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to confirm slow wages growth with the latest wages price index tipped to show annual growth of 2.3 per cent.
There are also expectations that Thursday’s employment report will show a slight increase in the national jobless rate to 5.3 per cent through July.
Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.