The unemployment rate climbed for the second consecutive month in November as the tightest labor market in decades induced people to leave their jobs in search of better opportunities, government data showed Friday.
The jobless rate edged up to 2.5 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from October, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
Meanwhile, job availability improved in November, showing that companies remain eager to take on more workers amid a severe labor shortage.
The job openings to job applicant ratio stood at 1.63, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, rising for the first time in two months after slipping to 1.62 the previous month. That means there were 163 openings for every 100 people looking for a job, near the highest level in 45 years.
A government official said that labor market conditions are continuing to improve, as evidenced by the 770,000 people who chose to quit during the reporting month, suggesting they were confident in finding better positions.
In contrast, 420,000 people became unemployed involuntarily, while 380,000 were newcomers to the job market.
“A rise in unemployment is usually bad, but given the current labor shortage, that’s not necessarily the case,” said Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.
“More people have been joining the labor market, and while some of them are remaining unemployed, most are finding work. This is conducive to a growing economy,” he said.
Joblessness among men was steady at 2.7 percent while among women it rose slightly to 2.3 percent. The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed stood at 1.73 million, up 50,000 from the previous month.
The percentage of working-age people between 15 and 64 years old with jobs was 77.3 percent, falling slightly after hitting a record high the previous month. The share of men with jobs in this age range was 84.4 percent, while for women it was 70.0 percent.
With an aging population yielding fewer workers, earlier this month the Diet passed a bill, pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to allow more foreign workers into the country.
Some 345,000 people from abroad are expected to join the workforce over the next five years but opposition parties have criticized Abe for putting forward hastily crafted legislation.