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Average overtime hours worked per capita among manufacturers plunged 40 percent in January from a year earlier, posting the largest fall on record as exporters accelerated production cuts amid the global economic downturn, the government said Monday.

Average overtime hours worked, a key gauge of Japan’s economic outlook, came to 9.0 hours for manufacturers, falling for the 10th straight month, the labor ministry said in a preliminary report.

The 40 percent decline marked the largest fall since the ministry began compiling data under the current format in 1990, topping the 30.6 percent drop recorded last December.

An increasing number of companies, particularly export-oriented firms like automakers and electronics makers, are implementing large-scale production cuts as the global economic slump deepens, ministry officials said.

Overtime hours are expected to continue to fall, given that the outlook for economic recovery is uncertain both at home and abroad, they said.

Average overtime hours worked on an all-industry basis dropped 15.2 percent in January to 8.9 hours, falling for the 10th successive month, the ministry said.

As a result, average nonregular wages, including overtime pay, declined 14.8 percent to ¥16,518 for the sixth straight monthly decline, posting the largest-ever fall. The previous record fall was 13.8 percent in November 1992.

Average regular pay, such as base salary, decreased 0.1 percent to ¥248,664, the first decline in 15 months.

Average overall wages fell 1.3 percent to ¥278,476 for the third consecutive monthly decline.

The number of regular employees rose 1.0 percent to 44.97 million, with the number of full-time workers increasing 0.7 percent to 33.14 million and that of part-time workers rising 1.5 percent to 11.83 million, the ministry said.

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