Japan’s employment situation worsened further in May as the jobless rate matched a record-high 4.9 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the previous month, the government said Friday.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate, which rose for the second straight month in May, first hit the record 4.9 percent in December, remaining at the same level in January.

The jobless rate for men was a record 5.1 percent, up 0.1 point, while the rate for women was 4.6 percent, up 0.2 point, the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications said in a preliminary report. The jobless rate for men was at the same level in March last year.

Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa said the figures point to a need for more budgetary spending to stimulate employment.

“Employment-linked measures are of the utmost importance in the budget for the next fiscal year. The budget should be increased,” Shiokawa told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Kiyoshi Sasamori, head of the secretariat at the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), called on the government to use public funds as an emergency measure to create jobs and address the increase in unemployed people.

“Without an improvement in employment, there will be no economic recovery, and without economic recovery, there will be no structural reform,” Sasamori said.

“The government should take the responsibility of ensuring stability in employment and providing a sense of safety to enable the economy to pursue a path to recovery,” he said.

The number of unemployed increased by 200,000, or 6.1 percent, from a year earlier to 3.48 million, up for the second straight month.

The number of men out of work rose by 150,000 to 2.11 million, while the number of women out of work climbed by 30,000 to 1.36 million, the ministry said.

Of the unemployed, the number who were laid off in the reporting month turned upward for the first time in five months, coming to 1.02 million, up 10,000 from a year earlier.

The figure for those who left their jobs of their own accord rose for the second straight month to 1.22 million, up 140,000.

“As the drastic rise in the number of those under 34 who quit work voluntarily led the overall jobless rate higher, we cannot say the employment situation is deteriorating rapidly,” a government official said.

“But judging from recent gloomy economic indicators, the employment situation remains severe,” he figured.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Friday that the ratio of job offers to job seekers fell to a seasonally adjusted 0.61 in May from 0.62 in the previous month, meaning 61 jobs were being offered for every 100 job seekers. The ratio was 0.61 in March and 0.64 in February.

Job offers increased 1.6 percent from April, while the number of job seekers increased 2.6 percent, according to the ministry.

The public management ministry said the number of employed people stood at 64.73 million in May, down 300,000, or 0.5 percent, from a year before, for the second straight month of decline.

The number of men in work came to 38.07 million, down 280,000, while the number of women workers declined by 10,000 to 26.66 million.

Of the total labor force, 6.45 million people hoped to change jobs, down 190,000, or 2.9 percent, of whom 2.48 million were actively seeking new employment, according to the ministry.

The unemployment rates for both men and women were highest in the 15-24 age bracket, at 11.3 percent for men, up 1.5 points from a year before, and 9 percent for women, up 0.6 point.

Among major industrial sectors, service was the only sector to see a workforce rise, accounting for 17.58 million jobs, up 260,000, or 1.5 percent, from a year earlier.

In contrast, jobs in the construction sector fell by 80,000, or 1.2 percent, to 6.34 million, down for the sixth straight month, while the workforce in the manufacturing sector turned downward for the first time in four months, falling by 210,000, or 1.6 percent, to 12.91 million.

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