Unemployment rate Employment grew by 1. 0 percent in 2001, while the unemployment rate increased steadily over most of the year to peak at 7. 0 per cent in October 2001, before declining slightly to 6. 7 percent in December 2001. Inflation rate The Australian Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 3.

1 percent through the year to the December quarter 2001. Various one-off factors added to inflation over that period. The price of meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables increased substantially through the year. In addition, some price effects have resulted from the events of September 11, the collapse of a major Australian insurance firm (HIH) and the second largest Australian airline (Ansett). These upwards price movements were offset somewhat by a significant decline in petrol prices over the year due to a fall in global oil prices. Skill level of workforce Australia offers workforce for financial services with a unique mix of skilled, multilingual and low-cost personnel-a combination that cannot be matched elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.

The attractiveness of Australia's financial services workforce is complemented by excellent education and the training facilities, sound regulation and high quality of life. All these factors give Australia a competitive advantage in the provision of financial service within the Asian time zone. Exchange Rate Australia has had a floating exchange rate. The Reserve Bank of Australia may undertake foreign exchange market operations when the market threatens to become excessively volatile or when the exchange rate is clearly inconsistent with underlying economic fundamentals. These operations are invariably aimed at stabilising market conditions rather than meeting exchange rate targets. During 2001, the Australian dollar appreciated (in nominal terms) 4.

9 percent against the Japanese yen. It depreciated 8. 5 percent against the US dollar and 2. 9 percent against the euro. The Australian dollar also fell against the currencies of Australia's other major trading partners, which contributed to a 3.

1 percent fall in the trade-weighted index. The exchange rate depreciation in 2001 improved Australia's international price competitiveness, cushioning the adverse effect of the global downturn on economic activity.