In the 12 months to last September, the economy's output grew 3.2 per cent, the statisticians tell us, a brisk pace by the standards of recent years.

But the population also grew strongly over that period so that per capita output - the foundation of living standards - rose a more modest 1.5 per cent.

Even so, it is an improvement on most of the past seven years.

It took five years for output per capita to regain its level in late 2007, the eve of the 2008/09 recession. The economy began contracting in the first quarter of 2008 for purely domestic reasons, six months before the collapse of Lehman Brothers marked the onset of the global financial crisis.


It was the steepest fall in output, peak to trough, since the 1970s and the subsequent recovery was weak, including a double dip recession - two successive quarters of contraction in 2010.

Since returning to its 2007 level in the December 2012 quarter, per capita output has rise by a cumulative 2.5 per cent.

But a total 2.5 per cent of per capita growth is not much to show for the past seven years.

National income per capita, on the other hand, has increased by 7.5 per cent over that period, and especially in the latter part of it, largely driven by a favourable shift in the terms of trade, that is, relative prices of the kinds of things New Zealand exports compared with the kinds of things it imports. National income has also benefited from the shift to lower world interest rates since the Global Financial Crisis, as New Zealand is a net debtor to the rest of the world, to the tune of $144 billion.

By June last year, the terms of trade was the most favourable New Zealand had enjoyed for more than 40 years.

In 2015, however, it is expected to continue to decline, reflecting the lagged effect of a halving of export dairy prices. How much it declines will depend on when and at what level international dairy prices find a floor and to what extent that is offset by higher prices for other commodities (the non-dairy components of ANZ's commodity price index rose 14.5 per cent in the year ended November) and on the import side how much further oil prices fall.

As for global interest rates, the focus will be on how "patient" the Federal Reserve is about the process of returning US interest rates to more normal levels.