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Spending by wage-earning households increased by an inflation-adjusted 0.2 percent in January from a year earlier, following a 4.4 percent decline in December, the government said Friday.

Average monthly spending by salaried workers’ households came to 328,060 yen in January, the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications said in a monthly report.

Spending is not recovering strongly yet, but, “it is not rapidly worsening,” a ministry official said.

The monthly spending of salaried workers’ households, which fell sharply in December because of a large decline in yearend bonuses, recovered in January to almost the same level as in January 2001, the official said.

The January rise was largely due to increased spending on food, telecommunications, cars and audiovisual equipment such as personal computers and television sets.

However, spending on household electrical appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators decreased while spending on package tours continued to decline, it said.

Outlays on food, the biggest category for households, rose 2 percent to 69,290 yen as increased expenditure on perishable foods offset lower outlays on meat.

Spending on meat has plunged since the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in Japan last September, and the trend continued in January with a fall of 6.2 percent, following declines of 8.6 percent in December, 8.8 percent in November and 14 percent in October.

Spending on culture and entertainment increased 4.9 percent, while transport and communications outlays rose 4.4 percent.

On the other hand, spending on durable goods for the home dropped 15.5 percent, education outlays fell 12.9 percent, clothing and footwear expenses were down 4 percent. Housing expenses also decreased 6.8 percent.

The average monthly income of salaried workers’ households climbed a real 3.5 percent to 460,331 yen in January, with the income of the main earner rising 1.1 percent and that of the spouse increasing 6.6 percent.

Disposable income rose 3.5 percent to an average of 385,541 yen. Household spending accounts for about 60 percent of Japan’s gross domestic product.

Spending by wage-earning households makes up about 60 percent of total household spending.

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