The nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent in June from the previous month, matching the record for the third time this year, the government said Tuesday in a preliminary report.

Taken to two decimal places, however, it marked a new high at 4.92 percent, up from January’s 4.86 percent and May’s 4.89 percent, government officials said.

Takeo Hiranuma, minister of economy, trade and industry, said the government will put together a set of employment measures by the end of August to prevent the country’s jobless rate from topping 5 percent.

The rates remained flat for both men and women — a record 5.1 percent for men and 4.6 percent for women, according to the report issued by the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications.

The ratio of job offers to seekers, at a seasonally adjusted 0.61, was also unchanged in June, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said. The ratio means 61 positions were being offered for every 100 job seekers.

Offers fell 2.2 percent from the month before, and the number of seekers declined as well, to 1.2 percent, the labor ministry said.

New job offers marked the first year-on-year downswing in two years, however, at 1.1 percent, due mainly to a 49 percent plunge in offers by electric machinery makers and a rapid slowdown in offers from information service providers, it said.

Hiranuma told reporters the jobless rate “could rise above 5 percent in a severe job situation” as the government proceeds with reform programs.

Against this backdrop, he stressed the need to focus on measures to create jobs and nurture new businesses, should the government compile a supplementary budget for the present fiscal year.

Heizo Takenaka, minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, told reporters the government needs to set up a job safety net.

While unemployment is likely to remain high, the overall employment situation will remain unpredictable, the labor ministry said, echoing a view it has maintained since February.

“We cannot say the employment situation is deteriorating rapidly,” a ministry official said, repeating the view expressed in June.

The number of people out of work grew by 170,000, or 5.3 percent, from a year earlier to 3.38 million, up for the third straight month, due to an increase of 210,000 to 1.31 million people voluntarily quitting their jobs, also up for the third successive month.

Meanwhile, those who have been laid off decreased by 130,000, to reach 920,000, after an increase of 10,000 in May.

Among those voluntarily quitting their jobs, the number is largest in the 25- to 34-year-old age bracket at 520,000, up 160,000, pushing the group’s jobless rate up 0.9 percentage point to 5.6 percent for men and 0.7 point to 7.1 percent for women.

The high rate of unemployment is partly “a matter of people preferring to change jobs, which is unlinked to economic conditions,” the official said. “Many seem to be dissatisfied with work conditions or anxious about their company’s future.”

The number of employed increased for the 14th consecutive month, by 340,000, from a year before to 54.13 million, while the overall workforce, including the self-employed, decreased for the third successive month by 370,000, to 64.66 million.

By industrial sector, manufacturers’ workforces decreased by 210,000, to 11.96 million, for the first downturn in five months.

Employment in the construction sector fell by 130,000, to 5.18 million.

In contrast, the labor force in the service industry rose 570,000, to 15.44 million; at wholesalers, retailers and restaurants it climbed 170,000, to 12.24 million; in the transport and communications sector it grew 20,000, to 3.97 million — the first upturn in seven months.

The employment program is aimed at addressing the mismatch between the number of jobs offered and the number sought, as well as coordinating existing measures taken by the industry ministry and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The measures include providing job information at local chambers of commerce and industry to respective employment bureaus, dispatching employment officials to bankrupt companies and holding joint events to encourage venture businesses, leading to new jobs.

The ministries will also join hands to facilitate the use by venture and other new firms of a 90 billion yen fund to be used to help increase employment, among other subsidies, as only 20 billion yen of the fund has so far been used since its creation in fiscal 1999, the official said.

The ministries will launch joint task forces in early August for the regions suffering high unemployment, starting with a meeting Thursday in Fukuoka for Kyushu.

They will also hold a meeting of vice ministers later in August to finalize the program. The meeting will be the first of its kind since November 1999. The 2000 annual gathering was canceled.

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