• Kyodo, JIJI


Japan’s unemployment rate hit a 26-year low in July, government data showed Friday, on the back of a serious labor shortage as the country’s population rapidly grays.

The jobless rate was down 0.1 percentage point from June to 2.2 percent, the lowest since October 1992, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The figure marked an improvement for the second straight month.

The number of jobless people decreased by 70,000 to 1.54 million, the lowest level since April 1993, the ministry also said.

The strong results are believed to have come after previously jobless people found employment amid labor shortages in the country.

Of the jobless people, new job seekers decreased by 60,000.

“The number of people starting to look for employment decreased” after housewives and elderly people secured jobs in recent years, a ministry official said.

The jobless rate for men decreased 0.2 point from June to 2.4 percent, while that for women climbed 0.1 point to 2.1 percent, the ministry said.

Separately, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the ratio of effective job openings to job seekers in July stood at 1.59, down 0.02 point from the previous month. The ratio means there were 159 openings for every 100 job seekers.

The figure was down for the third month in a row and the lowest level since March last year.

“As the number of people in work has been increasing, the tight labor situation is likely to continue going forward,” said Munehisa Tamura, researcher at the Daiwa Institute of Research.

But Tamura warned that attention should be paid to risk factors, such as escalating U.S.-China trade tensions and the fallout from the planned consumption tax hike in October, as they could worsen business sentiment and reduce the number of new job openings.

New job openings are declining mainly in the manufacturing sector amid weakened production activities, reflecting the U.S.-China trade friction.

The unadjusted number of new job offers in the manufacturing sector dropped 5.9 percent from a year earlier, down for the sixth straight month. The electronic parts and business-use machine sectors suffered large losses.

The job opening ratio represents the number of jobs available to each job seeker registered at Hello Work public job placement offices across the country.

The seasonally adjusted number of effective job openings decreased 0.2 percent while that of effective job seekers increased 1.0 percent.

By prefecture where people were employed, the job availability ratio was highest in Gifu, central Japan, at 2.15, and lowest in Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, at 1.29.

In July, the percentage of the working-age population between 15 and 64 years old with jobs gained 1.0 point from a year earlier to 77.9 percent, the highest level since comparable data became available in 1968.

The ratio for men in that age group was 84.4 percent, rising 0.7 point from a year earlier, while that for women was up 1.3 points to 71.2 percent.

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