• Kyodo

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Business confidence among Japanese workers with jobs sensitive to the health of the country’s economy fell in March for the third consecutive month, due partly to a deteriorating retail environment, the government said Monday.

The seasonally adjusted index of sentiment among workers sensitive to economic conditions, such as taxi drivers and restaurant employees, declined 1.2 points to 47.4.

The diffusion index is based on whether respondents believe economic conditions improved or worsened over the previous three months.

A reading above 50 indicates a majority reported improvement, while a reading below 50 shows a majority believe economic conditions deteriorated over the period.

Despite the index’s third consecutive fall, the Cabinet Office maintained its assessment, saying that the economy is “picking up but there are continued signs of it taking a spell.”

Respondents in the retailing, restaurant and housing industries felt their business environment had worsened, while rising material costs hurt sentiment in the corporate sector.

“There were comments about labor shortages in the restaurant sector . . . and rising purchase prices, which apparently worsened sentiment,” an official with the Cabinet Office said.

The sentiment index for economic conditions in coming months dropped 2.5 points from February to 48.1.

The Cabinet Office surveyed 2,050 workers nationwide from between March 25-31 of whom 1,874, or 91.4 percent, responded.

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