• Kyodo


Job availability improved to a fresh 44-year high in September as companies sought to ramp up hiring, government data showed Tuesday.

There were 1.64 openings for every job-seeker, the highest level since January 1974 and up from 1.63 in August, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The nationwide unemployment rate fell to 2.3 percent, down from 2.4 percent the previous month and remaining near the lowest level since the early 1990s, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said.

The figures show that while companies are seeking to hire more amid solid demand from overseas and at home, Japan’s fast-graying population is struggling to yield enough workers.

Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said that the job availability ratio is likely to continue to rise as the number of workers dwindles.

“The working-age population is projected to begin shrinking in the mid-2020s, so we are going to see this labor shortage get even worse.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has laid out plans to accept more foreign workers in blue-collar jobs starting next April in a bid to prevent the labor crunch from stunting growth in the world’s third largest economy.

The unemployment rate for men fell by 0.1 percentage point to 2.4 percent, while that for women remained at 2.3 percent.

The percentage of people in the working ages of between 15 and 64 with jobs rose to 77.3 percent in September, the highest since comparable data became available in 1968.

The percentage for women also rose to a record-high 70.3 percent after reaching 70 percent for the first time the previous month, with that for men also slightly up at 84.1 percent.

The seasonally adjusted number of workers in the country edged up by 30,000 to 66.65 million, while the number of unemployed fell by 70,000 to 1.60 million.

An official at the internal affairs ministry said 710,000 of the unemployed chose to leave their jobs, suggesting that they were going on the hunt for better positions.

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