The unemployment rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 5.1 percent in April in a sign that companies are still wary about adding jobs despite talk that the deflation-ridden economy is trending toward recovery.
The government said Friday the jobless rate rose a second consecutive month, climbing from 5.0 percent in March.
Job availability also fell slightly, with the ratio of job offers to job seekers declining to 0.48 from 0.49 in March, according to a separate report released the same day by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
The number means only 48 jobs were available for every 100 people who were looking in April.
The government is wary about the possibility of unemployment rising further.
“The situation is still serious, and we will work out more measures to boost employment,” said labor minister Akira Nagatsuma.
Economists say they are cautious but not overly pessimistic because it takes more than a month’s data to announce that the labor market is worsening amid signs of a steady recovery.
Norio Miyagawa, a senior economist at Shinko Research Institute, said the results indicate the situation is “not improving smoothly” but predicts it will improve at a moderate pace for months to come.
Hisashi Yamada, a chief senior economist at Japan Research Institute, said the rate would likely stay steady.
“The jobless rate will hover at around 5 percent for a while, as companies will unlikely add a substantial number of jobs unless they can expect their earnings to grow at a sustainable pace,” he said, adding that the worst is over.
The unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 5.6 percent last July. It eased below 5.0 percent in January for the first time in 10 months, before rising back above in March.
In April, the number of jobless stood at 3.56 million, up 100,000 from a year before and rising for the 18th consecutive month. Those holding jobs meanwhile fell 530,000 to 62.69 million, falling for a 27th consecutive time, the Internal Affairs and Communications ministry said in a preliminary report.
The unemployment rate edged up partly because women, mainly housewives, began looking for jobs, a ministry official said.
The jobless rate for men slipped 0.1 point to 5.5 percent from March, while the rate for women climbed 0.4 point to 4.7 percent.
Another contributing factor was the 210,000 high school graduates this spring who remained jobless as of April. That’s a relatively high figure in terms of recent surveys, the official said.
Roughly 1.07 million people lost their jobs in the reporting month because of decisions by their employers, down 70,000 from a year before. But the figure still remains high, the ministry said.
Both the manufacturing and construction sectors stayed sluggish, as manufacturing payrolls plunged by 310,000 and the construction sector shed 140,000 jobs.
But the health care and social welfare services sectors remained steady, adding 310,000 jobs, although the pace of expansion slowed from the previous month.
Miyagawa at Shinko Research Institute said a set of growth strategies set to be unveiled next month may help further increase jobs in the sector and push up the total payroll figure.
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