Japan’s unemployment rate eased to 4.6 percent in August, down 0.1 percentage point from July, marking its first monthly downturn in three months, the Management and Coordination Agency said Friday.
The Labor Ministry weighed in with more good news the same day, acknowledging some sings of improvement in the nation’s job market and releasing a separate report showing a continued rise in the ratio of job offers to job-seekers.
The number of unemployed fell 100,000, or 3.1 percent, from a year earlier to 3.1 million, falling on an annual basis for the fourth straight month, the Management and Coordination Agency said in a preliminary report.
The number of men out of work slipped by 30,000, or 1.6 percent, to 1.89 million, while the figure for women fell by 70,000, or 5.5 percent, to 1.21 million.
The jobless rate improved slightly after remaining at 4.7 percent in June and July, and reaching a postwar record high of 4.9 percent in February and March.
“The unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 point, but it is still at a high level,” an agency official said. “Despite the emergence of some bright signs, we will need to continue watching the job situation with care.” The Labor Ministry meanwhile reported that the ratio of job offers to job-seekers rose to a seasonally adjusted 0.62 in August, up 0.02 point from July.
The ratio means 62 jobs were available for every 100 job-seekers during the month. The ratio stood at 0.59 in June and 0.60 in July.
Job offers in August increased 2.9 percent from the previous month, while the number of job-seekers rose 1 percent.
The Management and Coordination Agency said 64.8 million people were working in August, down 310,000, or 0.5 percent, from a year before. There were 38.32 million male workers, down 120,000, and 26.49 million female workers, down 180,000.
Of the total workforce, 6.6 million people hoped to change jobs, up 300,000, or 4.8 percent, including 2.67 million who were actively seeking new employment.
The number of people laid off in August dipped 70,000 from a year earlier to 970,000 for the sixth consecutive month of fall, while the number of people who voluntarily left their jobs fell 20,000 to 1.1 million for the second straight monthly decline.
For men, the jobless rate was highest between the ages of 15 and 24, at 10.1 percent, up 0.4 point from a year earlier, and between the ages of 55 and 64, at 6.4 percent, down 0.2 point.
The 15-24 age group includes those looking for work after graduating from school, especially in March, and the 55-64 age group includes men seeking work after retirement.
For women, the unemployment rate was highest among those between the ages of 15 and 24, at 7.7 percent, down 0.8 point, and among those between 25 and 34, at 6.7 percent, 0.2 point lower.
By sector, 13.28 million people were employed in manufacturing, down 410,000 from a year earlier, or 3 percent, 14.62 million in wholesaling, retailing and restaurants, down 260,000, or 1.7 percent, and 6.55 million in construction, down 60,000, or 0.9 percent.
The number of workers increased in the service sector by 260,000, or 1.6 percent, to 16.99 million, and in the transport and telecom sectors by 190,000, or 4.8 percent, to 4.19 million.
Workers in Japan’s manufacturing sector did an average of 13.2 hours of overtime in August, a 12.8 percent increase from a year earlier, the Labor Ministry said in a monthly report released Friday.
August was the ninth consecutive month that overtime in the manufacturing sector — a key gauge of economic activity — has posted a double-digit percentage increase from a year before.
The report covers businesses with five or more employees.
Monthly wages for regular working hours averaged 265,482 yen in August, up 0.9 percent from a year earlier, according to the report.
Other allowances, including overtime, rose 4.7 percent to 18,201 yen, bringing overall wages to an average of 283,683 yen, up 1.3 percent.
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