Japan’s jobless rate rises to 2.4% in January

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FILE PHOTO: Attendees take pictures of a stock quotation board after a ceremony marking the end of trading in 2018 at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan December 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japan’s unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage point from the previous month to 2.4 percent in January, worsening for the first time in four months but still at a low level amid the country’s chronic labor shortage, government data showed Friday.

The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed in the reporting month increased 120,000, or 7.9 percent, from a month earlier to 1.64 million, partly due to a rise in the number of midcareer job seekers, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Among them, 720,000 people voluntarily left their jobs, up 90,000 from the previous month, 370,000 were laid off, up 30,000, and 400,000 were new job seekers, up 20,000.

A ministry official told reporters that the employment situation in Japan is “steadily improving,” but noted that the impact of the spread of the new coronavirus, which did not appear in the reporting month, may affect the figures in February.

“We’ll monitor the possible effects of the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.

Before seasonal adjustment, the number of people in work grew 590,000 from a year earlier to 66.87 million in January, up for the 85th straight month. Of those, 29.70 million were women, up 350,000 from a year earlier.

Separate data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed that the job availability ratio in January stood at 1.49, down from 1.57 in December and falling below the 1.50 threshold for the first time in 32 months. The ratio means there were 149 job openings for every 100 job seekers.

Some employers did not recruit in January due to the introduction of more cumbersome paperwork. From the reporting month, employers were required to fill in 26 new items in their job-offer forms, according to the labor ministry.

The percentage of the working-age population between 15 and 64 years old with jobs rose 0.7 point from a year earlier to 77.5 percent. The ratio for women with jobs in that age group grew 0.9 point to 70.6 percent, while that for men was 84.1 percent, up 0.4 point.

Meanwhile, Tokyo stocks tumbled Friday in a continued global rout, pushing the Nikkei index down to a six-month intraday low on heavy selling after coronavirus fears drove the steepest single-day point drop in Dow Jones Industrial Average history overnight.

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average plunged 763.46 points, or 3.48 percent, from Thursday to 21,184.77. The broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange was down 50.30 points, or 3.21 percent, at 1,517.76.

Every industry category lost ground, led by mining, real estate and securities house issues.

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