Business / Economy

Japan's jobless rate flat at 2.2% in August, remaining at lowest level in 26 years

Kyodo

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 2.2 percent in August, remaining at its lowest level in 26 years on the back of the chronic labor shortage, government data showed Tuesday.

The number of people at work hit a record 67.51 million in August, of whom 30.02 million were women — the second-highest figure since officials began compiling comparable data in 1953, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said.

A government official told reporters the labor market is in a state close to “full employment” as the jobless rate has been moving between 2.2 percent and 2.5 percent since January 2018.

Separate data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry showed the job availability ratio stood at 1.59, also unchanged from July. The ratio means there were 159 openings for every 100 job seekers.

The official maintained the view that the employment situation “has been steadily improving.”

Koichi Fujishiro, senior economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said the unemployment rate has been “unexpectedly strong” in recent months despite a slowdown in the global economy. Robust demand in the nonmanufacturing sector has offset the adverse effect from overseas, he said.

“The labor shortage has continued regardless of economic conditions,” Fujishiro said, referring to the current strong labor market that reflects structural factors, including the aging Japanese population.

The percentage of the working age population between 15 and 64 years old with a job was unchanged from a year earlier at 77.9 percent, remaining at the highest level since officials began compiling comparable data in 1968.

The number of regular employees edged 0.5 percent, or 180,000, lower to 34.97 million, down for the first time in 57 months amid a decline in the wholesale and retail sectors.

The official explained that the spread of online sales has made it difficult for businesses in those sectors to keep employing regular workers.

The number of nonregular employees rose 3.9 percent, or 820,000 to 21.90 million, for the 23rd straight month of increase.

The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed stood at 1.54 million, unchanged from a month earlier.

Among these, 680,000 people voluntarily left their jobs in August, unchanged from the previous month. The number of new job seekers shrank 20,000 to 330,000, while 360,000 people were laid off, unchanged from a month earlier.

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