Job availability in Japan rose to a fresh 44-year high in July amid a severe labor crunch, while unemployment edged up as more people newly began seeking work, government data showed Friday.
The job availability ratio stood at 1.63, up from 1.62 in June, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said. The ratio means there were 163 openings for every 100 job seekers, a peak not seen since January 1974.
Meanwhile, the nationwide jobless rate stood at 2.5 percent, up from 2.4 percent the previous month, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
A ministry official told a press briefing that the labor market remained the tightest in a quarter century, with the uptick in unemployment attributable to a larger number of people newly looking to fill open positions.
Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said that a statistical quirk had artificially pushed down the jobless rate in recent months and that the data were in the midst of a correction. The rate had fallen to 2.2 percent in May, the lowest since October 1992.
“It’s probable that the data is still distorted, and I expect the figure to continue rising for some time,” he said.
The seasonally-adjusted number of unemployed rose by 60,000 to 1.72 million. Of that total, 390,000 were newly engaged in job hunting. There were also a large number of workers who left their jobs in search of more favorable conditions, the data suggested. Those who quit their jobs totaled 700,000.
The data underscore a deepening labor shortage in a country with a rapidly aging population, an issue that threatens to undermine growth in the world’s third-largest economy.
In a sign the situation is forcing change in the nation’s insular job market, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced plans to accept more blue-collar foreign workers starting next April by creating a new visa status.
Japan had 66.36 million workers in July on a seasonally-adjusted basis, 40,000 more than the previous month. The unemployment rate for men was 2.7 percent, while for women it was 2.3 percent.