Japan’s unemployment rate fell to 2.5 percent in April, the third straight month it has declined, as the labor market showed signs of recovery after all coronavirus restrictions were lifted in late March, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said Tuesday.
The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell 0.1 percentage point from the previous month to match the level seen in March 2020, according to the ministry.
The job availability ratio rose for the fourth consecutive month to 1.23, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said separately. The ratio means there were 123 job openings for every 100 job seekers.
The number of job offers increased especially in the accommodation and food service sectors as businesses hired staff ahead of the Golden Week holidays through early May, according to the labor ministry.
For the first time in three years, there were no recommended curbs on business activity during the major holiday period as COVID-19 cases declined and the quasi-state of emergency, which asked restaurants and bars to close earlier, was lifted.
The total number of unemployed people in April declined 30,000 from the previous month to 1.8 million, down for the third consecutive month, data from the internal affairs ministry showed.
Among them, 730,000 people voluntarily left their jobs, up 60,000, while 430,000 were laid off, a decrease of 120,000 from the previous month. The number of new job seekers was unchanged from March at 460,000.
The number of workers in the accommodation and food services sector increased by 100,000 from a year earlier to 3.7 million, unadjusted for seasonal factors.
“A rebound was seen in the number of workers in sectors that have been the target of restrictions,” said Megumi Wada, a researcher at the Daiwa Institute of Research. “If infection cases are kept low and inbound tourism resumes, further job growth can be expected.”
After about two years of strict border controls amid the pandemic, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last Thursday that Japan will start accepting foreign tourists from June 10, though limiting the intake to those on package tours with guides and fixed itineraries.
But Wada added recent surges in fuel and other raw material prices linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could squeeze profits from a wide range of firms and make them reluctant to hire.
“It may impact manufacturers, a sector that had broadly recovered, and especially hit small and midsize companies,” Wada said.
The latest data showed the total number of people in work increased 270,000 from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted 67.4 million.
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