SYDNEY: Consumer confidence has increased significantly in the Asia-Pacific region over the past six months, with Australia experiencing particularly strong growth.

The new MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence, which polled 10,623 people from 24 markets in the region, showed consumer sentiment in the nation rising from 24.1 to 69.5.

Across Asia-Pacific as a whole, confidence rose from 38.7 to 66.3 on the index.

Elsewhere, relatively strong gains in overall confidence were recorded for Vietnam and Singapore, with 21 of the 24 markets also recording a net increase for the six-month period.

Over the course of the survey, MasterCard Worldwide gathered data on five factors affecting overall confidence - economy, employment, stock market, regular income and quality of life - with results then scored from 1 to 100, with 50 representing "neutral" confidence.

In Australia, the sharpest increases were noted for confidence on the economy - which rose from 18.3 to 78.3 - and for employment (9.6 to 65.2).

Andrew Cartwright, MasterCard Worldwide's country manager for Australia, said: "These results reflect the relative resilience of the local economy by global comparison, and a confidence by Australians that the year ahead will be better."

Latest official labour market figures show the nation's unemployment rate fell from 5.8% to 5.7% in November 2009.

This compares favourably with 10% unemployment in the US.

Australian retail sales also increased by 0.4% in October and by 1.4% in November.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald/MasterCard; additional content by Warc staff