Japan’s labor market remained relatively tight in November, keeping pressure on employers to boost pay in order to fill positions as companies prepare to engage in annual wage negotiations with unions.

The job-to-applicants ratio eased a tad to 1.28, meaning there were 128 jobs offered for every 100 applicants, the labor ministry reported Tuesday. Economists had forecast the reading would be unchanged at 1.30.

A separate report from the internal affairs ministry showed the unemployment rate held steady at 2.5% in November. The number of workers rose by 560,000 from the same month a year earlier, marking the 16th consecutive increase, while those without jobs rose by 40,000. The number of female workers rose by 420,000 from a year earlier. On a month-on-month basis, there were 260,000 more workers in November than October.