• Kyodo

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Business sentiment among workers with jobs sensitive to economic trends in Japan edged up in July for the second straight month of increase after the government’s coronavirus state of emergency on 10 prefectures was mostly lifted, official data showed Tuesday.

The diffusion index of confidence in their current conditions compared with three months earlier among “economy watchers,” such as taxi drivers and restaurant staff, rose 0.8 point from June to 48.4, according to the Cabinet Office.

A reading below 50 indicates that more respondents reported worsening conditions than improving ones. The office polled 2,050 workers from July 25 to 31, of whom 1,841, or 89.8 percent, responded.

A resurgence in COVID-19 infections caused by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus led to the fourth virus emergency for Tokyo in mid-July, three weeks after the third emergency was lifted for the capital.

Under the virus emergency, people were requested to stay home, and restaurants and bars were asked to stop serving alcohol.

In July, “the areas under the full-scale virus emergency were limited, and a (less strict) quasi-state of emergency was lifted in some other areas,” which led to some improvement in economic activities, a government official told reporters.

The official also said the Tokyo Olympics, which opened on July 23, helped increase spending on items consumed at home, while easing of emergency measures benefited the accommodation sector.

A worker at an amusement park in northeastern Japan was quoted as saying that relatively favorable weather brought many guests during the four-day weekend from July 22, and the park’s monthly business performance “recovered to a pre-pandemic level.”

A worker at a restaurant in western Japan voiced expectations that business conditions would become more severe until progress in the government’s vaccine program reduces the number of COVID-19 cases.

In addition to Tokyo and Okinawa, emergency measures were reinstated for some prefectures in early August, clouding the economic outlook.

The diffusion index gauging business sentiment for the coming months fell 4.0 points from the previous month to 48.4, down for the first time in three months.

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