Economic confidence among employees with jobs close to the consumer improved in April for the sixth month in a row, but pessimists still outnumber optimists, according to a government survey released Tuesday.

The Economy Watchers Survey, which uses an index to gauge economic confidence in the state of the economy among taxi drivers, retail clerks, restaurant employees and others, found that confidence rose to 46.7 in April from 43.9 in March, the sixth consecutive month of improvement, the Cabinet Office said.

However, April also marked the 21st month in a row that the index has come in below 50, which means the respondents generally believe the state of the economy has not changed compared with the previous three months.

“The index has kept rising since January (when it logged 31.9), leading us to believe the economy has stopped deteriorating and some industries show signs of improvement,” said Hidehiro Iwaki, director for regional economies and industries at the Cabinet Office.

Iwaki said export-related industries, such as automobiles and home electronics manufacturers, and retailers, such as department stores and supermarket chain operators, saw improvement during the period.

But many of the watchers cited the economy’s severe condition as the reason why the index remained below 50.

As for the World Cup extravaganza, many watchers do not believe it will boost business as much as expected. Japan and South Korea will cohost the tournament.

“We have won few reservations from customers related to the World Cup, although we had high expectations for high occupancy rates ahead of the six games scheduled for June in Osaka and Kobe,” a hotel worker in the Kinki region said.

The Cabinet Office surveyed 2,050 people across Japan from April 25 to April 30 and received responses from 1,857, or 90.6 percent.

The household spending index rose 1.8 points to 46.9, while the corporate activity index climbed 4.7 points to 47.3. The employment index came to 44.4, up 6 points.

The index for economic conditions in the upcoming few months came to 48.3, up 3.5 points from March, rising for the fourth month in a row.

But the index remained below 50 for the 19th consecutive month, it said.

Meanwhile, economy watchers in all 11 regions except Okinawa Prefecture upgraded their assessments of the economy in April, but Okinawa was the only area whose index topped the 50 line.

The index in Okinawa fell 5.7 points after logging a record high of 63.1 in March, up 11.9 points from February.

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