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Australia's May unemployment rate soars to 5.7%

AUSTRALIA'S unemployment rate rose to a seven-year high of 5.7 percent in May, government figures showed yesterday, reflecting job cuts at companies amid the slump.

The government predicted last month that the unemployment rate will peak at 8.5 percent in mid-2011, leaving 1 million people looking for work. In April, the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 5.5 percent.

"We've always said we were not immune from the global recession," said Employment Minister Julia Gillard, noting that the increase was in line with market expectations.

A survey released on Wednesday showed Australian consumers swung from pessimism to optimism for the first time in 17 months after the economy avoided slipping into recession in the first quarter.

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment posted its biggest increase in 22 years in June, leaping to 100.1 points from 88.8 from May. A reading above 100 means optimists outnumber pessimists.


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