Headline wage growth for Japanese workers slowed sharply in November, an unwelcome development for the Bank of Japan as it seeks evidence of a virtuous cycle linking pay hikes to price increases as a prerequisite for normalizing monetary policy.

Nominal cash earnings for workers rose 0.2% from the previous year, decelerating sharply from a 1.5% increase in October, the labor ministry said Wednesday. Economists had expected the pace to hold steady. Real wages declined 3%, much deeper than the consensus call for a 2% drop.

Still, a key subset of the figures that avoids some sampling issues showed signs of resilience.