Regional employment and consumer sentiment rose in May

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Prior to the release of Asia Pacific’s latest economic figures, many global economists projected slow economic growth for the region last month, citing April’s 8.6-magnitude Indonesian earthquake, Europe’s monetary woes, and the United States’ slow economic recovery as primary causes.
After all, throughout the last five years, unemployment has remained above-average, consumer confidence has lingered at low levels, and currencies have steadily depreciated within the region.

But, in reality, were economists’ projections accurate? Did economic progress actually occur in May? Are there any telling signs that the region’s economic future will be secure throughout the second half of the year? And perhaps most important – will a double-dip recession be avoided this summer?

The following economic indicators were recently revealed, concerning regional unemployment, inflation, and consumer sentiment for the month of May.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 622,800 citizens were unemployed in May, a month-to-month increase of 22,400, in comparison to April’s employment statistics. The country’s national unemployment rate also rose on a month-to-month basis, from five percent in April, to 5.1 percent in May. Despite the rise in unemployment, a majority of Australian economists were quite pleased with the nation’s latest employment report, as more full-time positions were added to the national economy than originally predicted. Overall, full-time employment rose by 46,100 last month, while the employment participation rate also increased, rising from 65.2 percent in April to 65.5 percent in May.

Year-to-year, total inflation declined once again last month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China’s latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures. According to the bureau, China’s year-to-year CPI was measured at three percent in May, a 0.4 percent decrease when compared to April’s statistics. Since January, year-to-year inflation has dropped by 1.5 percent, a significant decrease in such a short time period. In addition, the nation’s food, clothing, and housing price indices have declined by 4.1, 0.2, and 0.3 percent, respectively, throughout the last five months.

For the fourth consecutive month, Bank Indonesia retained the nation’s official cash rate at 5.75 percent during its monthly policy board meeting in early May. Since September 2011, the rate has fluctuated quite often, dropping from 6.75 percent to six percent in December. Nevertheless, the nation’s overnight deposit facility and overnight lending facility interest rate measurements have generally remained unchanged during that time span, at 3.75 and 6.75 percent, respectively. In the meantime, the value of the nation’s main currency – the rupiah – has depreciated by 1.2 percent throughout the past year, dropping to IDR9258 per U.S. dollar.

South Korea:
South Korea’s consumer sentiment increased for the fifth straight month in May, according to the Korean Statistical Information Service, rising from 104 in April to 105 last month. Each of the nation’s three consumer expectations measurements, including living standards, domestic economic situation, and employment situation, also rose on a month-to-month basis. However, South Korea’s spending plan measurement actually declined from April to May, dropping from 110 to 109, while two of the spending plan measurement’s indices – clothing and eating out – also declined. Nonetheless, various economic sources, including Moody’s Analytics, still believe consumer sentiment and spending will increase throughout the second half of 2012.

Prior to the release of Taiwan’s latest foreign trade statistics, most global economists projected the nation’s monthly trade balance would decline from $700 million in April to approximately $400 million in May. However, as a complete surprise to many economists, the nation’s trade surplus nearly matched February and March’s figures, rising to $2.26 billion. According to Taiwan National Statistics, the country’s imports and exports figures each declined on a year-to-year basis in May, by 10.5 and 6.3 percent, respectively. Metals and plastics exportation also dropped from May 2011 to May 2012, as did the distribution of Taiwan’s largest exports, machinery and electrical equipment, most likely due to weakened global demand.

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