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Average monthly wages at Japanese firms with at least five workers edged up 0.1 percent in January, from a year before, to ¥273,142, marking the first increase since May 2008, a labor ministry monthly report showed Wednesday.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry attributed the increase to an upswing in overtime pay, which slumped sharply in January 2009 amid the global financial crisis following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008.

Monthly overtime hours in the manufacturing sector, a key gauge to assess the overall economic trend, surged 30.1 percent to 12.1 hours in January. Overall, overtime averaged 9.4 hours, up 3.4 percent.

Of the total wages paid in the reporting month, scheduled pay, including basic salary, decreased 0.5 percent to ¥243,861 for the 18th consecutive month of decline, the ministry said in a preliminary report.

Nonscheduled pay, including overtime pay, grew 2.2 percent to ¥17,535 for the first increase in 18 months, the ministry said.

“We need to monitor further before concluding that workers’ wages have been put on a growth track, given that basic salary has still been on the decline,” a ministry official said.

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