Japan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is certain to hit 5 percent in an official report for July due out next week, government sources said Thursday.

It would be the first time that the figure has breached 5 percent since the government began reporting monthly jobless figures in 1953.

The jobless rates for both men and women has also probably worsened by about 0.1 percentage point in July to hit all-time highs, and the number of people out of work is expected to be about 3.3 million, a record for the month, the sources said.

The Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry is set to release the July report on Tuesday, they said.

Many economists said job conditions could deteriorate further in the short term should Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi press private banks to accelerate their disposal of bad loans.

The Koizumi administration is expected to face a mounting need to urgently expand employment measures, including a safety net for job-losers, through such means as a supplementary budget for the current fiscal year.

In the June report, the jobless rate stood at 4.9 percent, matching the record level for the fourth time following May, January and December.

The June jobless rates were also flat for both men and women, at a record 5.1 percent for men and 4.6 percent for women.

The jobless rate currently stands at 4.5 percent in the United States, but the U.S. calculation method is different from Japan’s and the U.S. rate is not considered as dire as that of Japan. Britain’s rate is 3.2 percent, South Korea’s is 3.7 percent, Germany’s is 9.2 percent and France’s is 8.8 percent.

Nikkei hits 17-year low

The Nikkei average on the Tokyo Stock Exchange hit a 17-year closing low Thursday, weighted down by fears that the Japanese economy faces further deterioration.

The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei average declined 269.51 points, or 2.36 percent, to 11,126.92. This marked its lowest close since Oct. 23, 1984, when it finished at 1,029.95.

The broader Tokyo Stock Price Index, a measure of all first-section issues, fell 18.15 points, or 1.56 percent, to 1,147.39. This marked its lowest close since March 5, 1999, when it ended at 1,146.72.

The Nikkei average opened at the day’s high, 11,414.99, following a rebound in New York share prices on Wednesday. It failed to rise, however.

Muneyuki Ichihara, investment information manager at Nomura Securities Co., said: “The rise on Wall Street was not brought about by improvements in corporate earnings and economic condi

tions in the United States. Concerns over a further decline in New York share prices remain.”

Media reports that Japan’s unemployment rate for July is certain to hit 5 percent — the highest since the government began reporting monthly jobless figures in 1953 — also heightened fears over the future course of the Japanese economy, brokers said.

“Investors now believe it will take more time for the Japanese economy to bottom out,” said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of the products group at Nikko Securities Co.

The intraday low for the Nikkei average was 11,104.18.

Volume on the main section increased to 906.67 million shares from Wednesday’s 846.98 million shares.

Losers outpaced gainers 755 to 558, while 133 issues closed the day unchanged.

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