Business sentiment among people with jobs sensitive to economic trends rose by a record in June as expectations for recovery grew after the lifting of the state of emergency for the coronavirus the previous month, government data shows.
Among the “economy watchers,” such as taxi drivers and restaurant staff, the diffusion index for confidence jumped to 38.8, up 23.3 points from May and the sharpest increase since comparable data became available in January 2002, the Cabinet Office said Wednesday.
The reading, up for the second consecutive month, rebounded close to the 41.9 figure logged in January, when the coronavirus outbreak had yet to be felt.
Just two months ago it had set a record low of 7.9 as the nationwide state of emergency declared to counter the virus brought the economy to a crawl.
Workers’ outlooks are also turning positive. The diffusion index gauging sentiment for the coming months climbed 7.5 points from the previous month to 44.0, following a record jump of 19.9 points in May.
A reading below 50 indicates more respondents reported worsening conditions than improving ones. The index in May was 15.5, the third-lowest since January 2002 and worse than the readings of around 20 logged after the 2008 financial crisis and the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
The Cabinet Office upgraded its assessment for the second consecutive month, saying that while economic conditions remain severe due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are signs of a pickup.
The government had called on people to refrain from nonessential outings and for businesses to suspend operations under the emergency declaration. After infections abated, the it completely lifted the emergency on May 25, followed by its advisory against inter-prefecture travel on June 19.
But concern over a second wave is growing as Tokyo and other areas log steady upticks in COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
A Cabinet Office official told reporters that the outcome of the decisions “reflected the resumption of economic and social activities,” adding, “There were still many negative views.”
A department store employee in Hokkaido was quoted as saying that customers began returning after the travel advisory was lifted and that consumption has been boosted by the government’s cash relief program, which is distributing ¥100,000 ($930) to each resident.
In the meantime, a convenience store clerk in the Kinki region reported that the number of shoppers had not yet returned to the previous level, adding there are almost no foreign visitors.
The Cabinet Office surveyed 2,050 workers from June 25 to 30, drawing valid responses from 1,834, or 89.5 percent.
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