The jobless rate was unchanged in October after rising in each of the two previous months. The proportion of people out of work has risen from a nine-year low of 3.6 percent in July.
The Bank of Japan says worker shortages will prompt companies to increase wages, putting more money into the hands of consumers, whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy. Rising energy and raw material costs have made small and mid-sized companies reluctant to hire or increase pay.
The number of jobs available for each applicant fell to 1.02 in October from 1.05 in the previous month according to the Labor Ministry.
Hiring fell in the three months through September. Mid-year bonuses, typically about 10 percent of a worker's annual income, dropped this year for the first time since 2004. Winter bonuses will grow at less than half the pace of 2006's yearend bonus, according to a survey by the Nikkei newspaper this month.
The hiring numbers are consistent with the central bank's Tankan quarterly survey of business confidence, which showed small and mid-sized companies were the most pessimistic in two years in September.