• Kyodo

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Japan’s unemployment rate fell to 2.8% in July, down for the second straight month, despite a resurgence of coronavirus infections and a fourth state of emergency declared for Tokyo over the virus, government data showed Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell from 2.9% in June, which had also seen a 0.1 percentage point drop from the previous month, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. But the level is still higher than the 2.4% registered in February last year, when the Japanese economy had yet to see major fallout from the pandemic.

Separate data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed that the job availability ratio in July increased to 1.15 from 1.13 a month earlier, rising for the second month in a row, meaning that there were 115 job openings for every 100 job seekers. It had gained 0.04 point in June.

A surge in new infections driven by the highly contagious delta virus variant forced the government to issue the latest coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo in mid-July — only three weeks after the third emergency was lifted for the capital.

It joined Okinawa as the two regions of Japan under an emergency declaration during July. The southern island prefecture’s virus emergency was declared in late May.

Under the declaration, people are asked to stay home, while restaurants and bars were asked to refrain from serving alcohol and close by 8 p.m. However, some eateries have defied the latest request, serving alcohol and returning to regular business hours.

“I don’t think we can say that the number of infections and the jobless rate showed a clear correlation this time,” a government official told reporters. “Having said that, the virus impact still remains and we have to monitor it closely.”

The July survey shows the number of unemployed stood at 1.90 million, dropping 120,000 from June and down for the second consecutive month. Among the total, 700,000 people voluntarily left their jobs, down 90,000, while 570,000 were laid off, up 10,000, and 480,000 were new job seekers, down 20,000.

The number of people in work rose 420,000 from the previous month to 67.08 million, increasing for the second successive month.

Meanwhile, Japan’s industrial output dropped 1.5% in July from the previous month due to the ongoing global chip shortage and the disruption in the supply of parts caused by the coronavirus pandemic in other Asian countries, government data showed Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted index of production at factories and mines stood at 98.1 against the 2015 base of 100, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report.

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