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2ND LD: Japan's jobless rate at worst level in over 3 yrs in February.

TOKYO, March 31 Kyodo


Japan's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate hit 4.4 percent in February, the worst level in more than three years, reflecting the current economic downturn with companies increasingly reducing their payrolls, the government said Tuesday.

The jobless rate, the highest since January 2006 when it also stood at 4.4 percent, was up 0.3 percentage point from January and slightly above the average market forecast of 4.3 percent in a Kyodo News survey.

The number of jobless people grew 330,000 from a year earlier to 2.99 million for the fourth consecutive month of rise, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a preliminary report.

''There remains a tough environment'' surrounding the nation's job market due largely to the worldwide economic slowdown, a ministry official said. ''The deterioration (in payrolls) is getting severe in its extent.''

The ratio of job offers to job seekers was at a seasonally adjusted 0.59, which means there were 59 jobs available for every 100 job seekers, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said separately. That was down from 0.67 in January for the ninth straight month of fall and lower than a projected 0.63.

The ratio of 0.59 was the lowest since February 2003, and its fall by 0.08 from the previous month was the sharpest single-month drop since December 1974.

According to the internal affairs ministry report, the unemployment rate for men rose 0.2 point from the previous month to 4.4 percent and that for women was up 0.3 point to 4.4 percent.

The government responded to the result in a calm manner but said employment issues will be at the center of its envisaged additional economic stimulus. ''We will handle the problem as the top priority,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters.

Akira Maekawa, senior economist at UBS Securities Japan Ltd., said that without the government's emergency measures, the nation's unemployment rate would surge to 6 percent during the period between the summer and fall this year.

The administration of Prime Minister Taro Aso is reportedly planning to create 2 million jobs over the next three years.

The number of jobholders came to 62.65 million, down 270,000 from a year before. It dropped for the 13th consecutive month.

The number of male jobholders slid 470,000 to 36.54 million. The figure for women gained 210,000 to 26.12 million.

The ministry said the data underlined that more women, especially housewives, have sought jobs in order to support their households financially. But the ministry also said many such female workers are being hired for temporary, short-term positions, and that the trend of women entering the job market is still too weak to topple the current sluggishness of employment conditions as a whole.

The number of people dismissed from their jobs grew 330,000 to 940,000, reaching the worst level since comparable data became available in 2002. Meanwhile, 960,000 people, down 70,000, quit their jobs for their own reasons.

The number of jobholders in the manufacturing industry fell 220,000 to 11.03 million. The construction industry saw a fall of 260,000 to 5.19 million due apparently to declines in housing starts and public works projects.

Male unemployment rates rose for almost all age brackets in the survey. The rate for the group aged 15 to 24 deteriorated most sharply, up 1.7 points to 9.1 percent.

For women, jobless rates rose for all age brackets, also most sharply in the 15-24 age group -- up 1.7 points to 8.8 percent.

According to the labor ministry's report, the number of job offers declined 6.7 percent in February from the previous month while that of job seekers expanded 4.9 percent. Meanwhile the number of new job offers slid 30.1 percent from a year earlier.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Apr 6, 2009
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