Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook

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1 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook DECEMBER 2014 Statement by The Honourable J. B. Hockey MP Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia and Senator the Honourable Mathias Cormann Minister for Finance of the Commonwealth of Australia For the information of honourable members

2 Commonwealth of Australia 2014 ISBN This publication is available for your use under a Creative Commons BY Attribution 3.0 Australia licence, with the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, third party content and where otherwise stated. The full licence terms are available from Use of Commonwealth of Australia material under a Creative Commons BY Attribution 3.0 Australia licence requires you to attribute the work (but not in any way that suggests that the Commonwealth of Australia endorses you or your use of the work). Commonwealth of Australia material used as supplied. Provided you have not modified or transformed Commonwealth of Australia material in any way including, for example, by changing the Commonwealth of Australia text; calculating percentage changes; graphing or charting data; or deriving new statistics from published statistics then the Commonwealth of Australia prefers the following attribution: Source: The Commonwealth of Australia. Derivative material If you have modified or transformed Commonwealth of Australia material, or derived new material from those of the Commonwealth of Australia in any way, then the Commonwealth of Australia prefers the following attribution: Based on Commonwealth of Australia data. Use of the Coat of Arms The terms under which the Coat of Arms can be used are set out on the It s an Honour website (see Other Uses Inquiries regarding this licence and any other use of this document are welcome at: Manager Communications The Treasury Langton Crescent Parkes ACT Internet A copy of this document is available on the central Budget website at: Printed by CanPrint Communications Pty Ltd.

3 NOTES (a) The following definitions are used in this Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO): real means adjusted for the effect of inflation; real growth in expenses and payments is calculated by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as the deflator; the Budget year refers to , while the forward years refer to , and ; and one billion is equal to one thousand million. (b) Figures in tables and generally in the text have been rounded. Discrepancies in tables between totals and sums of components are due to rounding: estimates under $100,000 are rounded to the nearest thousand; estimates $100,000 and over are generally rounded to the nearest tenth of a million; estimates midway between rounding points are rounded up; and the percentage changes in statistical tables are calculated using unrounded data. (c) For the budget balance, a negative sign indicates a deficit while no sign indicates a surplus. (d) The following notations are used: - nil na not applicable (unless otherwise specified) $m millions of dollars $b billions of dollars nfp not for publication (e) estimates (unless otherwise specified) (p) projections (unless otherwise specified) NEC/nec not elsewhere classified iii

4 (e) The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are referred to as the Territories. References to the States or each State include the Territories. The following abbreviations are used for the names of the States, where appropriate: NSW VIC QLD WA SA TAS ACT NT New South Wales Victoria Queensland Western Australia South Australia Tasmania Australian Capital Territory Northern Territory (f) In this paper the term Commonwealth refers to the Commonwealth of Australia. The term is used when referring to the legal entity of the Commonwealth of Australia. The term Australian Government is used when referring to the Government and the decisions and activities made by the Government on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. iv

5 FOREWORD The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) has been prepared in accordance with the Charter of Budget Honesty Act The Charter requires that the Government provide a mid-year budget report which provides updated information on the Government s fiscal position. Consistent with these requirements: Part 1: Overview contains summary information on the key fiscal and economic indicators and outlook. Part 2: Economic outlook discusses the domestic and international economic forecasts and projections that underpin the budget estimates. Part 3: Fiscal strategy and outlook provides a discussion of the fiscal strategy and outlook, in addition to a summary of the factors explaining variations in the cash flow statement, the operating statement and the balance sheet since the Budget. This part includes discussion of the sensitivity of the budget estimates to changes in economic parameters, confidence intervals around forecasts, expenses by function, tax expenditures, payments to the States, and a debt statement. Appendix A: Policy decisions taken since the Budget provides details of decisions taken since the Budget that affect revenue, expense and capital estimates. Appendix B: Australian Government Budget Financial Statements provides financial statements for the general government, public non-financial corporations and total non-financial public sectors. Appendix C: Statement of risks provides details of general developments or specific events that may have an impact on the fiscal position, and contingent liabilities which are costs the government may possibly face, some of which are quantified. Appendix D: Historical Australian Government data provides historical data for the Australian Government s key fiscal aggregates. v

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7 CONTENTS FOREWORD... V PART 1: OVERVIEW... 1 Repairing the Budget... 2 Update to the economic outlook... 3 Impact of the Senate... 4 New policy decisions... 5 Medium term outlook... 5 PART 2: ECONOMIC OUTLOOK... 7 Overview... 7 International economic outlook... 7 Domestic economic outlook Medium-term economic projections PART 3: FISCAL STRATEGY AND OUTLOOK Overview Change in the fiscal position since the Budget Impact of the economy on tax receipts and payments Impact of the Senate Strong fiscal discipline Fiscal Strategy Delivering on the medium-term fiscal strategy Budget surpluses over the course of the economic cycle Strengthening the Government s balance sheet Fiscal Outlook Budget aggregates Underlying cash balance estimates Receipts estimates Payment estimates Fiscal balance estimates Revenue estimates Expense and net capital investment estimates Headline cash balance Structural budget balance estimates ATTACHMENT A Sensitivity of budget estimates to economic developments vii

8 Sensitivity of the balance sheet to economic and fiscal risks ATTACHMENT B Confidence intervals around the economic and fiscal forecasts Measures of uncertainty around economic forecasts Measures of uncertainty around fiscal forecasts ATTACHMENT C Tax Expenditures ATTACHMENT D Supplementary expenses table and the Contingency Reserve ATTACHMENT E Australia s Federal Relations Overview of payments to the States Payments for specific purposes GST and general revenue assistance ATTACHMENT F Debt Statement Commonwealth Government Securities issuance Estimates and projections of CGS on issue Changes in net debt since the Budget Breakdown of CGS currently on issue Non-resident holdings of CGS on issue Interest on CGS Climate spending APPENDIX A: POLICY DECISIONS TAKEN SINCE THE BUDGET Revenue Measures Expense Measures Capital Measures APPENDIX B: AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT BUDGET FINANCIAL STATEMENTS Australian Government Financial Statements Notes to the general government sector financial statements ATTACHMENT A Financial reporting standards and budget concepts ATTACHMENT B Australian Loan Council Allocation viii

9 APPENDIX C: STATEMENT OF RISKS Overview Details of fiscal risks and contingent liabilities Fiscal Risks Defence Treasury Significant but remote contingencies Communications Defence Treasury Contingent liabilities unquantifiable Agriculture Defence Finance Health Infrastructure and Regional Development Contingent assets unquantifiable Defence Contingent liabilities quantifiable Defence Foreign Affairs and Trade Treasury Contingent assets quantifiable Defence Foreign Affairs and Trade Government loans Higher Education Loan Programme APPENDIX D: HISTORICAL AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT DATA Data sources Comparability of data across years Revisions to previously published data Australian Government general government sector call on resources Deflating real spending growth by the Consumer Price Index ix

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11 PART 1: OVERVIEW Despite a deteriorating global economy over 2014, the Australian economy continues to grow solidly, with strong growth in areas such as exports and housing investment. Moving into 2015, growth will be further supported by historically low interest rates, the recent depreciation of the Australian dollar and lower energy prices. The Government is executing its Economic Action Strategy to deliver a stronger and more prosperous economy with greater opportunities next year and beyond. A key component of this Strategy is the continued roll out of over $50 billion of infrastructure investment. These investments have already begun and include major projects across the nation that will reduce congestion, improve productivity and create jobs. The Government s investment in infrastructure also includes incentives of $5 billion through the Asset Recycling Initiative, which will catalyse over $38 billion in new infrastructure. In total, the Infrastructure Growth Package will lead to over $125 billion of new productive infrastructure over the next decade. The business environment has improved since 2013 and costs for all Australians have been reduced as a result of the abolition of the Carbon Tax and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. The abolition of these taxes will encourage investment and job creation. The Government has also removed the uncertainty created by nearly 100 announced but unlegislated tax and superannuation measures dating back 12 years. The Government has successfully concluded landmark negotiations on free trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China. These are world-class, comprehensive agreements that substantially liberalise our trade with major markets, delivering significant benefits to Australian exporters, farmers, manufacturers and consumers. Starting next year and developing in the coming years, they will provide enormous opportunities for Australian business to expand in the region, particularly for the providers of services to cater for the demand of the growing Asian middle class. In 2014, the Government removed around 57,000 pages of government regulation and legislation and cut around $2 billion of red tape for businesses, community organisations, and individuals, with further reductions to come in These red tape reductions are easing the costs and complexity of doing business. The Government has accelerated environmental assessments and approvals for over 300 major new projects worth over $1 trillion for Australia and these projects are now getting underway. The Medibank Private Limited Share Offer was successfully completed this year, surpassing expectations and returning $5.7 billion in proceeds to be re-invested in job-creating infrastructure. 1

12 Part 1: Overview Repairing the Budget Most importantly, in 2014 the Government commenced the critical task of repairing the budget. The Budget outlined an ambitious structural reform agenda designed to drive economic growth and create jobs. It also took major steps towards ensuring the Government lives within its means, returns the budget to surplus and pays down debt. The Government has made considerable progress. The majority of Budget measures have now been implemented. As a result, the budget position is fundamentally stronger than it would have been under the unsustainable trajectory of debt and deficits left behind by the former Government. Compared with the projection of $667 billion in debt inherited just over a year ago, the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) shows the Government on track to reduce this by nearly $170 billion. In addition, budget deficits are still forecast to reduce steadily over the forward estimates and beyond. However, since May, two key factors have primarily driven the $43.7 billion deterioration in the budget over the forward estimates: the impact of the economy on tax receipts and payments; and the impact of the Senate s decisions. Primarily as a result of the collapse in iron ore prices by over 30 per cent and weaker than expected wage growth, tax receipts have been revised down by $31.6 billion. Government payments have also been affected. Delays in passing legislation and negotiations with the Senate have cost the budget more than $10.6 billion over the forward estimates, keeping debt and interest payments higher for longer. An underlying cash deficit of $40.4 billion is now expected in (2.5 per cent of GDP), narrowing to a deficit of $11.5 billion (0.6 per cent of GDP) by This reinforces that there is much more work to do and budget repair will take time. Table 1.1: Budget aggregates Estimates Budget MYEFO Budget MYEFO Underlying cash balance($b)(a) Per cent of GDP Fiscal balance($b) Per cent of GDP Projections Budget MYEFO Budget MYEFO Underlying cash balance($b)(a) Per cent of GDP Fiscal balance($b) Per cent of GDP (a) Excludes expected net Future Fund earnings. 2

13 Part 1: Overview Update to the economic outlook Overall, the outlook for real GDP growth is unchanged since Budget. Real GDP is forecast to grow at 2½ per cent in , before increasing to near-trend growth of 3 per cent in This reflects the expectation of solid growth of real activity in the economy continuing. However, the changes to the economic outlook since the Budget are driven by the sharper than expected fall in the terms of trade, including significant falls in prices of iron ore and coal, and weaker wage growth. While the forecasts for solid real GDP growth are unchanged, the prices we receive for our production have declined significantly. Accordingly, nominal GDP growth in is expected to be weaker than forecast at Budget, at 1½ per cent. This would be the weakest nominal GDP growth in a financial year in over 50 years. Table 1.2: Major economic parameters (a) Forecasts Projections Real GDP 2 1/ /2 3 1/2 Employment 1 1 3/ /4 Unemployment rate 6 1/2 6 1/ /4 Consumer price index 2 1/2 2 1/2 2 1/2 2 1/2 Wage price index 2 1/ /4 3 Nominal GDP 1 1/2 4 1/2 5 1/4 5 1/4 (a) Year average unless otherwise stated. Employment, the wage price index and the consumer price index are through the year growth to the June quarter in and The unemployment rate is the rate for the June quarter. Source: Treasury projections. Iron ore prices have unexpectedly fallen by over 30 per cent since the Budget. MYEFO assumes a free-on-board iron ore price of US$60 per tonne over the next two years, which compares with a spot price of US$95 at Budget. The fall in iron ore prices has led to company tax receipts being revised down by $2.3 billion in and $14.4 billion over the forward estimates. At the same time weaker wage and employment growth are expected to lower individuals income tax receipts by $2.3 billion in and $8.6 billion over the forward estimates. Weaker wage and employment growth will also increase payments for existing government programmes. Excluding policy changes, total taxation receipts have been revised down by $6.2 billion in and $31.6 billion over the forward estimates. This brings the total writedown in tax receipts since the Government was elected to over $70 billion. To avoid detracting from economic growth, the Government has let the impact on the budget from sharply lower iron ore prices and slower wage growth flow through to the bottom line, rather than taking decisions to cut expenditure dramatically or increase tax. 3

14 Part 1: Overview Impact of the Senate The other key driver of the deterioration in the budget position since May has been the impact of delays in the passage of key legislative measures and outcomes of negotiations with the Senate. Considerable progress has been made in implementing the Budget. Around 75 per cent of the over 400 measures in the Budget have already been implemented. Included in these measures are some of the Government s largest decisions to repair the budget, such as the reduction in Official Development Assistance ($7.9 billion over five years) and changes to welfare and social services totalling $2.7 billion. The Government is committed to negotiating constructively with the Senate on Budget measures, but there is a cost of delay. The delay in passing legislation to allow Budget measures to commence has already cost the budget $3.4 billion. These delays are hampering progress towards budget repair and result in debt and associated interest payments staying higher for longer than would otherwise be the case. The cost to date of completed and ongoing negotiations with the Senate totals $7.2 billion over the forward estimates. These costs are primarily a result of changes required to: repeal the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and associated spending ($6.6 billion); amend the higher education reforms announced in the Budget; and implement the re-instalment of Temporary Protection Visas. This brings the total cost to the budget of Senate delays and negotiations to $10.6 billion over the forward estimates. Notably though, the budget costs associated with the Minerals Resource Rent Tax repeal package were fully offset by the end of 2023 by the decision to delay the increase in the superannuation guarantee rate until 1 July The repeal of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and other related measures will save the budget over $10 billion over the forward estimates and around $50 billion over the next decade. The Government remains committed to budget repair and to successfully negotiating the structural reform measures announced in the Budget through the Parliament. Around $33.9 billion of measures that improve the budget position also remain subject to the passage of legislation. Over $5 billion in measures that were policies of the former Government are yet to secure passage through the Parliament. If these measures are not passed, the projected improvement in the budget position will be further weakened. 4

15 Part 1: Overview New policy decisions Fiscal discipline has been maintained and, setting aside negotiations with the Senate, the Government has improved the budget position over the forward estimates by $3.2 billion as a result of policy decisions in MYEFO. The spending decisions that have been taken since the Budget primarily respond to changes in the international security environment, or reflect the commitment to drive growth and support a strong economy. The Government has responded to a rapidly changing security environment, investing around $1.3 billion to keep Australians safe and secure. To counter the threat of home-grown terrorism, security and law enforcement agencies have been given $631.4 million in extra resources to track, disrupt and prosecute Australians involved in violent extremism, both at home and overseas. Operations in Iraq are addressing the enduring threat of terrorism at a cost of $306.4 million. The Government has also taken further steps to build a stronger, more prosperous economy. This includes the finalisation of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement. It also includes the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda with key decisions such as the reinstatement of important incentives for entrepreneurship through Employee Share Schemes and the establishment of five new sector specific Industry Growth Centres. MYEFO also includes funding for the Global Infrastructure Hub, a key outcome of Australia s G20 presidency, to facilitate greater infrastructure investment and collaboration between governments, the private sector and international organisations. Building on measures in the Budget, the Government has also agreed to a third tranche of Smaller Government reforms with a further reduction of 175 bodies. This supplements firm action to restrain the size of government by achieving necessary wage restraint and reducing the size of the public service. Medium term outlook The MYEFO showed that, without action, the budget would not return to surplus for a decade, and debt would reach $667 billion by and still be rising. Despite the deterioration in the fiscal outlook over the forward estimates, the medium-term outlook for the budget is considerably better than a year ago. Debt is now projected to be nearly $170 billion lower than it would have been by and to be falling. The underlying cash balance is projected to reach surplus in , with the surplus reaching 0.8 per cent of GDP by the end of the medium term, including future tax relief being incorporated from This remains a considerable improvement from the MYEFO projections. 5

16 Part 1: Overview 2.0 Chart 1.1: Underlying cash balance projected to Per cent of GDP Per cent of GDP Budget MYEFO Notes: The underlying cash balance excludes Future Fund earnings and payments. A tax-to-gdp cap of 23.9 per cent is applied on Budget and MYEFO projections. Source: Treasury projections The Government remains committed to its objective of building a stronger economy and achieving surpluses, which build to at least 1 per cent of GDP by While budget repair is underway, there is more work to do to deliver on this commitment. While there are positive signs of the Australian economy strengthening and transitioning towards broader-based drivers of growth, there is still much work to be done and budget repair will take time. The path of fiscal consolidation and policy settings will be considered comprehensively as part of the normal annual Budget process. The Government is determined to work with the Australian people to build a strong and prosperous economy and take advantage of the many opportunities that will build Australia s future

17 PART 2: ECONOMIC OUTLOOK OVERVIEW Against the backdrop of weaker global economic growth, the Australian economy continues to grow solidly. The outlook is for an improvement in Australia s real GDP growth, which is unchanged since Budget. Exports and dwelling investment have been growing strongly and there are tentative signs of recovery elsewhere. Interest rates at historic lows are supportive of growth. The depreciation of the Australian dollar and recently signed free trade agreements are improving the prospects for the trade-exposed sectors of the economy. In contrast, nominal GDP growth in is expected to be weaker than forecast at Budget and the weakest growth in a financial year in over 50 years. This reflects a substantial fall in commodity prices, particularly iron ore prices (which fell by more than all major forecasters expected) and further moderation in wage growth. This has led to lower forecast company and individuals income tax receipts and government payments have increased. INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC OUTLOOK The global economy is expected to recover but at a slower rate than expected at Budget. The United States is leading advanced economy recoveries, but there has been a loss of momentum in both the euro area and Japan. China s economic transition towards more sustainable growth, and a slowdown in its property market, are weighing on iron ore and coal prices. The majority of world growth is still expected to come from emerging market economies, predominantly those in our region, with world growth expected to pick up to 3¾ per cent in 2015 and 4 per cent in Australia s major trading partner growth is expected to continue to exceed world growth, with forecasts of 4½ per cent in 2015 and This reflects the relative and increasing importance of fast-growing east Asian economies within our export markets. The most immediate risk to the global recovery is the euro area, which faces the possibility of a long period of subdued growth and low inflation. The long period of relatively calm financial markets and rising asset prices could be reversed by a variety of triggers, such as increased geopolitical tensions. Any such reversal could potentially weigh on confidence and growth. 7

18 Part 2: Economic Outlook Finally, while China s transition to more moderate but sustainable growth will underpin increasing prosperity and a burgeoning middle class, this transition may not be smooth. Table 2.1: International GDP growth forecasts (a) Actuals Forecasts China(b) /4 6 3/4 6 1/2 India(b) /4 5 1/2 6 Japan 1.5 1/2 1 3/4 United States /4 3 3 Euro area / /2 Other East Asia(c) /4 4 3/4 Major trading partners /2 4 1/2 4 1/2 World /4 3 3/4 4 (a) World, euro area and other East Asia growth rates are calculated using GDP weights based on purchasing power parity (PPP), while growth rates for major trading partners are calculated using export trade weights. (b) Production-based measure of GDP. (c) Other East Asia comprises the newly industrialised economies (NIEs) of Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations group of five (ASEAN-5), which comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Source: National statistical agencies, IMF World Economic Outlook October 2014, Thomson Reuters and Treasury. The United States (which is our third largest trading partner) has been a source of optimism in the global economy, with a return to strong growth following the first quarter contraction. Fundamentals are improving: household finances are healthy, the labour market is improving and business investment is growing. Forecast growth is 3 per cent in 2015 and In line with the recovery, the United States Federal Reserve has brought to a close its program of net asset purchases. This has been done without generating the volatility in financial markets that had been feared, with attention now on the likely timing and pace of interest rate rises. The pace and timing of these rises and the communication strategy by the Federal Reserve may again raise the prospect of volatility in financial markets. In China, growth is moderating to a more sustainable rate as the economy matures and the benefits of past stimulus fade. While forecasts have been revised down, reflecting this moderation in growth and headwinds from the property market, China is still expected to be the fastest growing and by far the largest of Australia s major trading partners. The composition of growth in China is also as important to the evolution of Australia s trading relationship as the pace of growth. A key development for our trade with China has been the slowdown in the property market, which has added to broader and significant downward pressure on iron ore prices (Box A). Adding to this has been pre-existing Chinese overcapacity in resource and energy intensive sectors such as steel and cement. While the impact on growth has 8

19 Part 2: Economic Outlook been partly offset by supportive policy and improving external demand, the net effect on key commodities has been weaker demand and lower prices. Looking ahead, solid and sustained growth in China will be underpinned by the transition already underway from investment-led to consumption-led growth. This phase of growth is expected to be less resource intensive and, together with recently signed Free Trade Agreements with China, Japan and Korea, should expand export opportunities for Australia in other goods and services. An important component of the medium-term reform agenda is financial system deregulation. This is critical to improve the efficient allocation of capital across the economy, but carries with it risks as it will require the management of impaired loans in the system. Forecast growth for China has been downgraded to 6¾ per cent in 2015 and 6½ per cent in 2016 reflecting further signs of weakness since the Budget forecasts were prepared, and since the IMF s World Economic Outlook in October. There are downside risks given the transitions that are taking place, although these are moderated to some degree by the policy buffers at the authorities disposal. The recent monetary policy easing demonstrates the authorities preparedness to support growth. Elsewhere in emerging Asia, India is recovering from an extended downturn, with a steady but promising reform agenda expected to lift medium-term growth. Forecast growth has been upgraded to 5½ per cent in 2015 and 6 per cent in The ASEAN-5 are expected to benefit from lower commodity prices, with Indonesia and Malaysia notable exceptions as fellow commodity exporters. The euro area recovery lost some momentum this year. Parts of the European periphery are growing strongly, albeit with a lot of ground to make up, but growth in Germany, France and Italy has been weak. Forecast growth has been downgraded to ¾ per cent in 2014 and 1 per cent in 2015, but held at 1½ per cent for There is a risk of long-lasting damage to potential growth in the euro area, with depressed business investment and a near-record high unemployment rate. As a result of this economic weakness, the euro area is facing persistent low inflation and falling inflation expectations. The European Central Bank has pursued further easing measures in response to these pressures. While highly accommodative monetary policy is expected to support a gradual recovery in activity, progress on fiscal and structural reforms remains key to prospects across the euro area. In Japan (our second largest trading partner), the recovery faltered following the consumption tax increase in April, with two consecutive quarters of negative growth, suggesting underlying economic weakness rather than a temporary setback. In response, the Bank of Japan has provided further considerable monetary easing, while the Government has pursued a fresh electoral mandate. More broadly, Japan faces significant structural challenges which present downside risks to growth. Forecast growth has been downgraded to ½ per cent in 2014, left at 1 per cent for 2015 and downgraded to ¾ per cent in

20 Part 2: Economic Outlook DOMESTIC ECONOMIC OUTLOOK The outlook for real GDP growth is unchanged since Budget, and the economy is forecast to grow at 2½ per cent in , before increasing to near-trend growth of 3 per cent in The economy continues to transition from resources investment-led growth towards broader-based drivers of activity. Exports and housing construction are growing strongly. With interest rates at historic lows, the decline in the Australian dollar and new market opportunities becoming available, the Australian economy is expected to strengthen. Exports volumes are growing strongly. The transition of the resources investment boom to its production phase has seen Australian iron ore export volumes grow more quickly than expected, as new mines and capacity expansions in the Pilbara reached production targets faster than expected. Going forward, exports should be supported by a lower dollar and by stronger demand for services and other exports from the expanding Asian middle class. Imports, especially of capital goods, declined in , largely reflecting the reduction in resources investment. The fall in the Australian dollar will encourage consumers and businesses to switch from imports to domestically produced goods, with imports now expected to continue to fall slightly in and grow by only ½ per cent in Business investment growth in was weaker than expected, amid a fast decline in resources investment since the recent peak. However, the outlook for non-resources investment has improved. Non-mining business conditions and confidence have been high over much of this year. In addition, historically low interest rates and a lower exchange rate will support investment going forward, though at this stage it has yet to be reflected in strong investment plans. Dwelling investment has been growing strongly, rising by 5.1 per cent in , supported by low interest rates and rising house prices. While dwelling investment fell unexpectedly in the September quarter, building approvals point to a strong outlook in the near term. In 2014, the average number of jobs created per month has been more than double that of However, below trend real GDP growth continues to mean that employment growth has not been strong enough to keep up with growth in the labour force. This has led the unemployment rate to rise slightly. An increase in job advertisements and low wage growth highlights upside risks to employment growth. Nevertheless, with the unemployment rate currently a little higher than expected at Budget, the unemployment rate is now expected to peak at 6½ per cent. The implied unemployment rate forecasts for calendar years 2014 and 2015 are within the range of consensus forecasts. 10

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