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The Economic Planning Agency said Monday that its index measuring workers’ views on the current status of the economy showed they were more pessimistic in August than three months ago.

The EPA said the index of perceptions of workers in various sectors fell to 48.8 in August from 50.4 in July, sinking below the boom-or-bust line of 50 for the first time since February.

The index is calculated from the “economic watcher” survey, in which workers indicate, on a scale rising to 5, whether they believe the economy is improving or worsening.

The respondents include people whose jobs tend to make them sensitive to ups and downs in the economy, such as department-store sales clerks, taxi drivers and employees of temporary staff agencies.

The survey results also show that workers’ opinions on corporate activity and labor are improving but are negative on household spending.

The index measuring workers’ views on the economy two to three months ahead was 51.2 in August, hardly changed from 51.3 in the previous month.

The survey was conducted between Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 in the regions of Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Tokai, Kinki and Kyushu. Valid responses were received from 565 workers.

Stores’ sales fall 1.7%

Sales at department stores in Tokyo’s 23 wards totaled 138.9 billion yen in August, down 1.7 percent from a year earlier for the sixth straight monthly decline, the Japan Department Stores Association said Monday.

Even so, the decrease was a big improvement from the 5.4 percent decline in June and 5.6 percent in July, the association said.

The association attributed August’s relative improvement to bargain sales of summer clothes that have drawn many customers amid a hotter-than-usual summer.

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