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Japan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stayed at a nearly nine-year low of 4.0 percent in February for the fourth straight month, the government said Friday.

The number of jobless people fell by 70,000 from a year earlier to 2.70 million in the reporting month, down for the 15th month in a row, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a preliminary report.

The headline figure matched the average market projection.

The 4.0 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since April 1998, when the rate logged the same figure.

The jobless rate has hovered in a tight range of 4.0 to 4.2 percent for the 13 months since February 2006.

“The nation’s employment situation continues to improve as a whole, though some severe aspects remain, such as a high jobless rate for young women,” a ministry official said, leaving the government assessment of the job market unchanged from the previous month.

The jobless rate for men fell 0.1 percentage point from January to 4.0 percent, while that for women also stood at 4.0 percent, up 0.2 point from the previous month.

The jobless rate for women rose for the third consecutive month. “But we cannot find any particular reasons behind the move and we will closely monitor the trend,” the official said.

Jobless rates declined in most age brackets, but for women aged between 15 and 24 it climbed a hefty 1.8 points from the previous year to 8.1 percent.

The rate for men in the same age bracket dipped 0.1 point to 9.4 percent.

Meanwhile, the ratio of job offers to job seekers fell to a 10-month low of 1.05 in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, down from 1.06 in January, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said in a separate report.

Bonuses up — barely

The average semiannual bonus paid to workers at firms employing at least five people rose slightly last December to 433,825 yen, the third straight yearly uptick but a mere 0.1 percent above a year earlier, according to preliminary data the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued Friday.

Monthly salaries excluding overtime pay fell 0.4 percent year on year to 248,496 yen in February, the 10th consecutive month of decline.

Overtime pay rose 0.7 percent to 19,525 yen, extending the upward streak to 55 months.

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