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2ND LD: Japan's jobless rate falls to 6-year low at 4.5%.

TOKYO, Dec. 28 Kyodo


Japan's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to a six-year low of 4.5 percent in November, down 0.2 percentage point from October and underscoring an improvement in the nation's labor market, the government said Tuesday.

The jobless rate was the lowest since the 4.5 percent logged in January 1999, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a preliminary report.

The figure beat the average market projection of 4.7 percent.

Separately, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said the ratio of job offers to job seekers came to a seasonally adjusted 0.92 in November, up 0.04 point from October. The figure means there were 92 jobs available for every 100 job seekers.

It was the first time in almost 12 years for the ratio to reach the 0.9 level, the ministry said.

Government officials and private-sector economists share the view that Japan's employment situation is improving on the back of sustained economic growth and a shrinking labor force due to the rapid aging of the population.

''Although the economic recovery is now pausing, the employment situation is on a recovery trend,'' said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at J.P. Morgan Securities Asia Pte. Ltd.

''The current pace would bring down the jobless rate by 0.5 point a year,'' Kanno said. ''We expect the economy to pick up speed around the middle of next year, driving the jobless rate to around 4 percent by the year-end.''

According to the unemployment data, which are considered to be a lagging indicator of the economy, the number of jobless people fell 400,000 from a year earlier to 2.90 million for the 18th straight month of decline.

It was the first time for the number of the jobless to go below 3 million since December 2000.

The unemployment rate for men came to 4.7 percent, down 0.1 point, and that for women was 4.3 percent, down 0.2 point.

The number of people with jobs dipped 10,000 to 63.22 million, the first slide in four months.

The number of people made involuntarily unemployed was 760,000 in November, down 180,000 from a year earlier. The number of people who quit jobs of their own accord shrank by 100,000 to 1.02 million.

The number of jobholders rose in the service, and medical and welfare sectors, but fell in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Improvement was seen in almost all age brackets, with the jobless rate for males aged 15 to 24 down 1.1 points from a year earlier to 9.2 percent and that for women aged 25 to 34 down 1.1 points to 5.0 percent.

However, the unemployment rate for females aged 15 to 24 climbed 0.2 point to 7.2 percent and that for men aged 35 to 44 was up 0.1 point to 3.6 percent.

According to the labor ministry report, the number of job offers rose 7.8 percent from the previous month and that of job seekers climbed 2.4 percent.

The number of new job offers increased 21.6 percent from a year earlier, it said.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Dec 29, 2004
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