The unemployment rate climbed to 4.4 percent from 4.1 percent in January, the statistics bureau said today in Tokyo, the highest since January 2006. The ratio of jobs available to each applicant tumbled to 0.59 last month from 0.67, the biggest drop since December 1974, the Labor Ministry said.
Household spending fell for a 12th month as exporters from Toyota Motor Corp. to NEC Corp. reined in hiring and contained wages. Prime Minister Taro Aso has ordered his third stimulus package since October to prevent the economic slump from deepening as the nation heads for its worst recession since 1945.
New jobs are also becoming harder to come by as companies try to contain costs. A total of 1,845 graduates had their job offers rescinded as of March 23, up 17 percent from February, the Labor Ministry said today.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, this month said it will almost halve recruitment of graduates in Japan to the lowest level in 14 years after forecasting its first loss in almost six decades. NEC Corp., Japan’s largest personal computer maker, said it plans to cut new hires by almost 90 percent to 100 people.
Bleak job prospects are taking their toll on consumers, whose outlays account for more than half of the economy. Retail sales fell at the fastest pace in seven years in February and weak demand prompted supermarket operators Ito-Yokado Co. and Seiyu Ltd. to cut prices of food, clothing and household products this month.
Some 77 percent of jobless people aren’t receiving unemployment benefits, the highest figure among Group of Seven nations except Italy, whose data weren’t available, the International Labour Organization said in a report last week.