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Average monthly pay in all industries in 2002 fell 2.3 percent from the previous year to 343,688 yen, marking the largest drop on record, the government said Monday.

Adjusted for changes in consumer prices, the real wage also declined 1.2 percent, indicating wages are shrinking both in nominal and real terms, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said in a preliminary report that covers companies employing five or more people.

Both figures marked the second straight annual fall.

Data using the current method have been collected since 1991.

Average monthly overtime at manufacturers, a key indicator of the economy’s health, rose 4 percent to 13.5 hours in 2002, up for the first time in two years.

Behind the rise was longer hours reported by transportation equipment-related industries, including the automobile sector, ministry officials said.

But on a seasonally adjusted basis, overtime has been declining since last September, they said.

The ministry also said average work hours for the whole of 2002 came to 1,838 per person at companies with 30 employees or more, down 10 hours from the previous year, marking the second consecutive yearly decline.

The government has set a target of reducing yearly work hours to 1,800 by fiscal 2005.

At companies with between five and 29 employees, average yearly work hours stood at 1,825, down 11 hours from the year before.

In December alone, overtime at manufacturers averaged 15 hours, up 18.7 percent from a year earlier for the eighth straight month of rise, the ministry said.

But the seasonally adjusted figure of overtime hours fell 0.8 percent from November, it said.

The ministry also said the average pay in December declined 2.4 percent to 632,759 yen. Monthly wages in December are normally higher than other months because most companies pay yearend bonuses or nonscheduled pay.

Also in December, the average nonscheduled pay, including bonuses, came to 351,267 yen, down 3.9 percent from a year earlier.

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