Japan’s unemployment rate hit a 45-month low of 4.6 percent in May, down 0.1 percentage point from April, with the largest margin of improvement in the jobless number on record, the government said Tuesday.

The number of jobless people totaled 3.19 million in the reporting month, down 560,000 from a year earlier, the best improvement since comparative data were made available in 1953, the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications said in a preliminary report.

The unemployment rate, the lowest since August 2000, also beat the average private-sector projection of 4.7 percent, marking the 12th straight month of year-on-year decline.

In a separate report, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the ratio of job offers to job-seekers came to a seasonally adjusted 0.80 in May, up 0.03 point from April.

It was the first time for the ratio to surpass the 0.80 mark since April 1993. The figure means there were 80 jobs available for every 100 job-seekers during the month.

Private-sector economists attributed the improvement in the labor market to expanding economic activity in the country, with some projecting the positive trend to continue until next year.

“The expansion of the Japanese economy has helped improve the supply-demand balance in the labor market,” said Mamoru Yamazaki, chief economist at Barclays Capital Japan Ltd. “I expect this expansionary trend in the labor market to continue as the current economic recovery is likely to hold up until next year.”

The jobless rate for men was 4.7 percent, down 0.2 percentage point from the previous month, while the rate for women was down 0.1 point to 4.4 percent, the public management ministry said. The number of women employed totaled 22.19 million — the largest figure since 1953.

The number of jobholders increased 290,000 to 63.89 million, up for the sixth straight month. The number of jobholders rose in the service and medical and welfare sectors, but fell in the manufacturing and retail industries.

The number of people forced out of work due to reasons such as corporate restructuring or bankruptcy fell 320,000 from a year earlier to 820,000, indicating that corporate confidence is apparently picking up in line with the current uptrend of the economy.

Improvement was seen in almost all age brackets, especially for young people and those in their late 50s and early 60s. The jobless rate for men aged 15 to 24 dropped 1.1 points from a year earlier to 11.2 percent, while the rate for women in the same age bracket dipped 1.2 points to 8.6 percent.

The unemployment rate for men aged 55 to 64 fell 2.3 points to 5.1 percent, while the rate for women in the same age bracket was down 1.0 point to 3.0 percent.

But some economists said the improvement in employment does not necessarily lead to a rise in disposable income, as employment increased mostly in low-paid, part-time jobs.

According to the labor ministry’s report, the number of job offers edged down 0.3 percent in May from the previous month and that of job-seekers fell 3.1 percent. The number of new job offers increased 5.5 percent from a year earlier.

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