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The outlook for workers employed in jobs that are sensitive to business cycles worsened in May for the first time in four months, according to a government survey released Thursday.

Many of the respondents also predict further corporate restructuring under the reform initiatives of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, according to the Cabinet Office survey.

The survey, which gauges the views of so-called economy watchers, shows the index on the employment outlook fell 1.6 points to 43.

It also shows the overall index on economic outlook edged up 0.3 point to 48.4, following April’s jump of 5.3 points.

April’s leap was attributed to positive expectations surrounding the new Cabinet of Koizumi. But the outlook index continued to stay mired below the boom-or-bust line of 50 for the eighth consecutive month. The index of economic sentiment regarding the state of the economy, designed to measure changes in sentiment from three months ago, rose 1.2 points to 42.3.

Despite being the third straight monthly gain, it was below 50 for the 10th consecutive month.

A Cabinet Office economist even discounted this improvement, saying the index was buoyed only by the seasonal factor of better weather, allied to its poor performance three months earlier.

The May survey also points to a geographical division in sentiment, with indexes for areas north of the Tokyo metropolitan region all falling, and those for the capital and western areas improving.

Improved sentiment in areas other than the north partly reflects the positive effect of Osaka’s Universal Studios theme park.

Northern economies are more dependent on construction and manufacturing.

The survey involved 1,500 workers employed in jobs sensitive to economic cycles, such as taxi and truck drivers and restaurant and hotel workers, of whom 90.2 percent responded.

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