Japan Jobless Rate Stays at 3.8%


Japan's unemployment rate was unchanged in January and job vacancies stayed at a two-year low, giving consumers more reasons to pare spending.

The jobless rate was 3.8 percent, the same as December, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo.

Spending by consumers is being squeezed by higher energy prices and falling wages, causing confidence to slip to a four- year low. Companies are scaling back production to brace for cooler global demand as the U.S. slowdown spreads, dimming prospects that paychecks will rise.

Household spending rose 3.6 percent in January from 2.2 percent in December, the statistics bureau said. The median estimate of 39 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for spending to rise 0.3 percent.

The health of factory output, which had its biggest drop in a year last month, is key in ensuring that corporate profits translate into higher wages and consumer spending, which accounts for more than half of the economy, Iizuka said. Manufacturers, who employ about one in every five of the nation's workers, cut jobs in four of the past five months to December.

The job-to-applicant ratio, a measure of vacancies, showed that the number of positions available for each applicant was unchanged at 0.98, the Labor Ministry said today.

Smaller companies are being hurt by record oil prices and weak domestic demand. Bankruptcies rose 7.6 percent in January from a year earlier and small and midsized businesses accounted for 99 percent of the 1,174 cases, according to Tokyo Shoko Research.


TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
2/28/2008 4:46:55 PM