The nation’s unemployment rate improved in November to 4.5 percent from 4.6 percent in October, though the number of people holding full-time jobs fell for the 23rd consecutive month. Data released Tuesday by the Management and Coordination Agency showed the full-time picture is being obscured by the continuing increase in people taking part-time positions. The jobless rate for men worsened 0.1 percentage point during the month to 4.7 percent, reflecting declining numbers of workers in the manufacturing sector as well as worsening employment rates among males aged 15 to 24. The jobless rate for women, meanwhile, improved 0.3 percentage point to 4.2 percent, reflecting more part-time jobs in the service sector and improving employment rates among females aged 25 to 44. In a separate report, the Labor Ministry said the ratio of job offers to job seekers improved 0.01 point in November to 0.49, or 49 job offers per 100 job seekers, rising for the third month in a row. The overall jobless figure was down from a record high 4.9 percent in June and July, 4.7 percent in August and 4.6 percent in September and October. But increasingly, that number is telling only part of the story. Among males aged 15 to 24, the November jobless rate was up 1.7 percentage point from the previous year to 9.7 percent. The second-highest jobless rate for males was in the 55-64 age bracket, at 6.6 percent, up 0.2 percentage point. For women aged 25 to 34, the jobless rate fell 0.5 percentage point to 6.3 percent, while for women aged 35 to 44, the rate slipped 0.4 percentage point to 3.1 percent. The number of unemployed stood at 2.95 million in November, up 40,000 from the same month last year, but the first time since January the figure has fallen below 3 million. The number of full-time workers fell 400,000, or 0.9 percent, from a year earlier to 46.65 million. The number of part-time workers rose 210,000, or 4.1 percent, to 5.32 million, continuing the upward trend started in September 1996. An agency official voiced concern over the still-shaky job outlook. “We are seeing some slightly better signs,” he said, “but the jobless rate for men and the large drop in full-time workers are worrisome. He noted that the unemployment rate remains higher than its 4.4 percent level at the beginning of this year. The official said the latest statistics do not warrant optimism. The number of jobs usually rises at the end of the year, he noted, and changes are often seen at the April 1 start of the fiscal year. “We need to watch the figures diligently,” he said. “There is no telling what the figures might be in March and April.” Economic Planning Agency chief Taichi Sakaiya spoke of the situation worsening, but not drastically. “I don’t expect drastic deterioration in the job situation,” he said during a news conference following the day’s Cabinet meeting. “I would say it won’t get to the critical point.” By sector, the number of workers employed in service industry rose for the first time in six months, up 270,000 from the same month last year to 17.21 million. The number of workers in construction grew 90,000 to 6.56 million, a smaller rise compared with the increase of 300,000 during the previous month. In manufacturing, the workforce fell 250,000 to 13.58 million, down for the 30th month in a row.

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