The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stayed at 4.1 percent in April, marking its third month in a row at that level, the government said Tuesday.
The streak is the best since the three-month period that ended in June 1998, when the figure was also 4.1 percent.
There were 2.84 million jobless people in April, down 260,000 from a year earlier and the fifth consecutive drop in a row, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said in a preliminary report.
The rate matched the average market projection exactly.
“The employment situation is improving, although some severe aspects remain, such as high jobless rates for young people,” a ministry official said, repeating the government’s assessment from March.
The rate for the three months to April is well down from the roughly 4.5 percent late last year.
Many private-sector economists responded positively to the reading.
“The fact that the unemployment rate has remained unchanged for three months in a row does not mean the nation’s labor market is at a standstill,” said Takehiro Sato, an economist and executive director at Morgan Stanley Japan Ltd.
The pace of improvement will likely fluctuate as people who had given up looking will be back now that the economy is on an upswing, Sato said.
Sato was referring to the fact that the ministry’s survey doesn’t count jobless people as unemployed unless they are actively looking for work.
“I am sure that the jobless rate will continue to fall, to below 4 percent eventually,” Sato 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 1.04 in April, up 0.03 points from the previous month. The figure means there were 104 jobs open for every 100 job seekers.
It’s the fifth consecutive month the ratio has been above 1.00.
The economy is posting “a strong self-sustained growth,” government spokesman Shinzo Abe said at a news conference.
The jobless rate for men fell 0.1 point to 4.2 percent from March and the rate for women fell by the same amount to 3.8 percent.
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