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The stagnant economy continued to deal severe blows to Japan’s business service industries in 2002, as exemplified by a 6.5 percent decline in billing at advertising agencies, the first decline in three years.

Advertisement-reliant businesses, already in a slump, found themselves dug in a little deeper, with billing at newspapers having sagged for 21 consecutive months through December, and television down for 15 months through October, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Friday in a preliminary report.

Leasing firms’ value of contracts slipped 3.6 percent to 6.28 trillion yen in 2002, marking the first fall in three years on scaled-back capital spending for machine tools and industrial machinery amid the recession, it said.

Sales at rental firms were 992.51 billion yen, down 5.8 percent for the seventh consecutive year, and orders to engineering firms tumbled 19.8 percent to 8.22 trillion yen for the second straight year of decline.

Credit card companies proved to be an exception as consumers tapped further into their future income. Credit card billing edged up 3.4 percent to 24.37 trillion yen, rising for the the ninth straight year. Information service providers’ sales rose for the eighth year in a row by 2.9 percent to 8.61 trillion yen.

Exactly half of the 12 sectors that comprise the individual service industry registered year-on-year declines, with revenues for cinema operators sliding 4.9 percent to 129.26 billion yen.

Among the sectors that witnessed an increase were foreign-language training schools and sports clubs.

In December alone, four major business service industries performed better than the previous month, while businesses at seven individual service industries were weaker, the report says.

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