Jobless rate stays at 5.4% but eases slightly for women

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 5.4 percent in September, unchanged for the fifth consecutive month and underlining severe employment conditions amid a weak economy, the government said in a preliminary report Tuesday.

The unemployment rate for men rose 0.1 point from the previous month to 5.8 percent, matching the record high marked in December, the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry said. The jobless rate for women slipped 0.2 point to 4.9 percent.

The overall jobless rate hasn’t changed since May and is just off the record high 5.5 percent chalked up last December.

Contributing to the rise in the jobless rate for men was the growth in the number of middle-aged employees let go from their jobs as companies continue to restructure, said Masato Chino, director of the ministry’s Labor Force Statistics Office.

The rate for women fell in part due to a rise in the number of temporary workers engaged in elderly care and welfare services, Chino said.

The ministry said the number of unemployed climbed by 80,000 from a year earlier to 3.65 million, up for the 18th straight month. Of the unemployed, 960,000 were the heads of households, up 30,000.

The number of people employed fell by 430,000 from a year before to 63.53 million. Men accounted for 37.41 million of the total, down 380,000 from a year before.

The ratio of job offers to job seekers edged up 0.01 point from August to a seasonally adjusted 0.55, meaning there were 55 job offers for every 100 seekers, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said in a separate report released the same day.

The number of job offers rose 1.9 percent, and that of job seekers increased 0.3 percent, the ministry said.

Job-security entreaty

The labor minister on Tuesday sounded a warning against companies that have recently resorted to job cuts to weather the 12-year economic slowdown.

“Government ministries and agencies must consider providing preferential treatment to companies that opt to put emphasis on job security,” said Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi.

He said he will submit a report detailing his idea on job security to Koizumi by the end of November.

Sakaguchi was commenting on the increasingly prevalent notion that businesses implementing workforce reductions are “good companies.”

In a related matter, Sakaguchi said he will ask Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to set aside extra resources to fund measures to create jobs under the fiscal 2003 budget.

“In compiling the budget, I want him to create a special quota for setting aside more financial resources for measures to create jobs,” Sakaguchi said.

On government plans to speed up the disposal of nonperforming loans, he said: “It is a matter of course to provide special treatment to people who will be forced out of jobs as a result of bad-loan disposal measures to be implemented based on the will of the government. I would like to make a request (to Koizumi) to implement budgetary allocations to this end as part of a supplementary budget (for fiscal 2002) or the regular budget for the next fiscal year.”

Sakaguchi turned down a request by the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) to allow Japanese employers to pay less mandatory social security contributions into national coffers.

“The amount of the financial burden imposed on businesses in this regard is not large, compared with the corresponding amounts collected in Germany and France,” he said.