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RBA expects unemployment to peak below 8 per cent

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe no longer expects unemployment to hit 10 per cent and says it’s more likely to peak below 8.

Speaking before parliament’s Standing Committee on Economics on Wednesday morning, Dr Lowe said the immediate recovery from the coronavirus recession had been stronger than he expected three months ago.

Dr Lowe said he now expects the national accounts to show quarterly growth of at least 2 per cent in the September quarter and unemployment to peak below 8 per cent by the end of the year.

Previously, the bank had forecast unemployment to peak at 10 per cent.

“So there has been an upgrade to our outlook,” Dr Lowe said.

“It’s not changed in the medium term, but the bounce back has been quicker than we’d hoped, and if we get good news on the vaccine, then I think we could look forward to that continuing.”

Dr Lowe’s comments come after the bank convened its last monetary policy meeting of the year on Tuesday.

As was widely expected, the board held the official cash rate at 0.1 per cent and maintained the same policy settings for its bank lending and government bond-buying programs.

Dr Lowe said the economic recoveries in Europe and the United States had “lost momentum” as a result of sharply rising coronavirus infection rates, with hours worked in most countries remaining “noticeably below pre-pandemic levels”.

But he said the economic recovery in Australia was under way and “recent data have generally been better than expected”.

“In the central scenario, GDP is expected to grow by around 5 per cent next year and 4 per cent over 2022,” Dr Lowe said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release GDP figures for the September quarter at 11.30am on Wednesday.

Economists expect quarterly growth of roughly 2.5 per cent.

More to come

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