Business / Economy

Jobless rate edges up slightly to 2.4%

Kyodo

The unemployment rate edged up in June but remained near the lowest level in a quarter of a century as Japan continued to grapple with a severe labor crunch, government data showed Tuesday.

The nationwide jobless rate stood at 2.4 percent, up from 2.2 percent the previous month, due to an increase in people who quit their jobs to find better work, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

Of the seasonally adjusted 1.66 million people who were unemployed, 700,000 quit voluntarily while 430,000 were involuntary and 360,000 were people newly seeking jobs.

Labor market conditions are solidly improving and “we are seeing increased employment across a wide range of industries,” a ministry official said.

Separate data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed job availability rose to a fresh 44-year high. The ratio of open positions to job seekers stood at 1.62, up from 1.60 in May. The ratio means there were 162 openings for every 100 job seekers.

Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said the ratio is likely to continue rising as demographic changes lead to a shortage of workers.

“The economy is strong and companies want to hire more, but at the same time the aging population means there are fewer people to fill those positions,” he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week announced plans to accept more foreign workers starting next April by creating a new visa status, a move aimed at providing staff to labor-strapped industries such as hotels and farming.

The Bank of Japan hopes that the tightening conditions will translate to higher wages and lift consumer spending and inflation toward its 2 percent target, though progress has been slow on that front.

Japan had 66.32 million workers in June on a seasonally-adjusted basis, 410,000 or 0.6 percent fewer than the previous month. The unemployment rate for men was 2.6 percent while that of women stood at 2.2 percent.