Japan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 4.6 percent in June, unchanged from the 45-month low recorded in May, as gains by women offset losses among men, the government said Friday.

The jobless rate has now stayed between 4 percent and 5 percent for four consecutive months, underscoring the view that the labor market is being supported by the economic upturn.

The jobless rate for women fell to a 70-month low of 4.2 percent, having stood at 4.4 percent in May, the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The figure was the lowest since the 4.1 percent logged in September 1998, according to the ministry. “The employment conditions for women are pretty good,” a ministry official said.

The jobless rate for men, however, stood at 4.9 percent, up 0.2 percentage point from May.

Improvement was seen in the employment situation among young people. The jobless rate for men aged between 15 and 24 fell 0.7 percentage point to 11.5 percent, while that for women in the same age bracket stood at 7.1 percent, down 1.7 points.

The ministry left its assessment of employment conditions unchanged, saying, “The employment situation is improving in general.”

But the ministry remained cautious about the situation for young people, saying it remains severe.

Private-sector economists welcomed the June jobless figures, though they remain cautious about predicting drastic improvements in the future.

“The figure in the reporting month was certainly strong, but I doubt if the jobless rate will drastically fall to the lower 4 percent level or to the upper 3 percent from now,” said Takehiro Sato, a senior economist at Morgan Stanley Japan Ltd.

Sato said the economic recovery will prompt housewives who had previously abandoned efforts to find jobs to return to the labor market, though not all of these will find jobs.

“As a result, this may help push up the unemployment rate,” he said.

The number of unemployed people totaled 3.09 million in the reporting month, down 520,000 from a year earlier for a 13th straight monthly decrease, according to the ministry.

The number of people forced out of their jobs dropped 270,000 from a year earlier to 900,000.

The number of jobholders declined 370,000 to 63.74 million, down for the first time in seven months.

The number of male jobholders fell 210,000 to 37.26 million, while the number of female jobholders declined 160,000 to 26.48 million, the official said.

The number of jobholders fell in the construction and manufacturing sectors, but rose in the medical and welfare service sectors, the official said.

In a separate report, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said the ratio of job offers to job-seekers came to a seasonally adjusted 0.82 in June, up 0.02 point from May. The figure means there were 82 jobs available for every 100 job-seekers.

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