The government released data Tuesday suggesting employment conditions have come under growing pressure from the slowing economy, with job availability marking its first fall in more than three years.
The unemployment rate stayed at 4.2 percent in September, unchanged from the previous month. But the result, which almost matched market forecasts, underscored that the struggling economy is making it hard to expand overall payrolls, while signs of weakening have been increasingly observed among manufacturers.
Job availability, or the ratio of employment offers to seekers, slid to 0.81 last month from 0.83 in August, meaning 81 positions were available for every 100 job seekers. It was the first deterioration since July 2009, the labor ministry said.
The economic recovery from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami has been slowing due to sluggishness in both domestic and overseas demand. Weakening exports and production have undermined business sentiment and apparently discouraged employers from hiring.
The number of employed grew a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent, or 60,000, to 62.69 million, while the ranks of the unemployed expanded 0.4 percent, or 10,000, to 2.73 million, according to a preliminary report by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
The unemployment rate for men improved to 4.4 percent from 4.5 percent, while that for women deteriorated to 3.8 percent from 3.7 percent.
“Employment conditions are seesawing,” a ministry official said.
Payrolls in the manufacturing sector as a whole dropped 370,000 to 10.15 million in September from a year earlier, with the government pointing to slowing exports and production due to decelerating overseas economies, including China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.
“Lower job availability could negatively affect the unemployment rate,” said Kyohei Morita, chief economist at Barclays Capital Japan Ltd., underlining that the job-offer ratio normally works as a leading indicator for other employment data. He Morita also expressed concern about possible adverse effects on the job market from slowing industrial output.