Business / Economy

Japan April job availability up to 1.17, best in 23 years

Kyodo

Japan’s job availability improved in April to its best level in around 23 years while the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 18 years, with companies willing to hire more workers on the back of an economic recovery, the government said Friday.

In April, the ratio of employment offers to seekers climbed to 1.17, the highest level since March 1992, from 1.15 the previous month, which means 117 positions were available for every 100 job seekers, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The country’s jobless rate, meanwhile, fell last month to 3.3 percent, its lowest level since April 1997, from 3.4 percent in March, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said in a preliminary report.

The number of unemployed people fell a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent from March to 2.19 million, as those involuntarily quitting jobs slid 1.4 percent to 680,000, the internal affairs ministry said.

“The employment situation is on a recovery track in general,” an official at the internal affairs ministry said.

The jobless rate for women rose 0.1 point to 3.2 percent from a month earlier in April, but the rate for men dropped 0.2 point to 3.4 percent, the internal affairs ministry said.

Analysts say Japan’s unemployment rate may fall further, given that corporate earnings have been robust as the sharp depreciation of the yen has bolstered the profitability of export-oriented firms.

A falling yen usually supports exports by making Japanese products cheaper abroad and raises the value of overseas revenues in yen terms.

The nation’s overall economy grew for the second consecutive quarter in the January-March period, up an annualized real 2.4 percent, indicating it is on a moderate recovery track following a setback triggered by the consumption tax hike in April last year.

But other economists say Japan’s labor market is not necessarily in good shape, as a rise in the job availability rate suggests some companies in certain industries are still struggling to address a shortage of workers.

Koya Miyamae, senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said the problem of a “mismatch” between available workers and available jobs should be eliminated to prompt further improvement in the employment situation.

By industry, the health care and welfare industry added jobs in April from a year earlier, while the transport and postal service sector cut jobs, the ministry said.