Ensuring we have a strong, growing economy remains front and centre of the National-led Government’s busy work programme. That’s because we need a strong economy to support the new jobs and higher incomes our country needs. We also need a strong economy to be able to provide for the ongoing funding of world-class essential public services, including schools, institutions of higher education, and hospitals.
I’m pleased to say our economic programme is working for New Zealanders and their families. We are now among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the developed world. Within the last few weeks, a range of new indicators have confirmed we’re heading in the right direction. For example, official employment statistics released last week showed strong job growth with 56,000 more people in employment over the last quarter and unemployment falling to 5.1 per cent. That means more than 250,000 more jobs have been created in the past three years. Our employment rate – the proportion of all people 16 or older….. in work – is now the second highest in the OECD. Unemployment in Auckland is also at its lowest level since 2008. This is reinforced by job advertising website SEEK recently reporting its job ads across New Zealand have increased by 4.8 per cent over the past year. Similarly, ANZ reports job advertisements lifted 1.4 per cent in July – the sixth successive monthly lift in a row – and are running 9.8 per cent higher than a year ago. Some other pleasing results were retail spending rose 2.3 per cent in the June quarter – the largest quarterly rise since 2006.
The Reserve Bank expects this to trend continue. Its latest set of forecasts show economic growth of 3.4 per cent in each of the next two years. It’s also forecasting unemployment to continue falling to 4.5 per cent by 2019 and for inflation to remain subdued. Mortgage interest rates are also at near record lows. That means a family with a $300,000 floating-rate mortgage is now paying almost $300 a week less in interest than when we were elected. Under the National-led Government, the average annual wage has increased by 25 per cent, or $11,000, since we were elected, double the rate of inflation. By any measure, these are good social and economic numbers. But we have more to do. I can assure you the National-led Government will continue working hard every day to build on this good momentum.