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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
Japan unemployment falls
Japanese job seekers
A falling unemployment rate may offer recovery hope
Unemployment in Japan has fallen to its lowest level in seven months, according to government figures.

I don't see this as a change in the trend. Labour market conditions will continue to be severe

Heizo Takenaka
Japanese economy minister
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.2% in March from 5.3% in February and from a 50-year record high of 5.5% in December, according to the Labor Force Statistics Office.

The fall in the jobless rate could be a first sign that the recession-hit Japanese economy is about to bounce back.

"Until December last year, the figures were completely negative," said LFSO director Masato Chino.

"Some data continue to be bad but others are so-so, showing signs of bottoming out."

Mixed views

Unusually, analysts appeared more optimistic than the government.

"When we look ahead, the economy is generally starting to enter a period of recovery," said Daiwa Institute of Research economist Tatsuya Torikoshi.

Japan's economy minister Heizo Takenaka took a more cautious view.

"I don't see this as a change in the trend. Labour market conditions will continue to be severe," he said.

Indeed, although the rate of unemployment fell last month, the actual number of unemployed people rose to 3.79 million from 3.56 million in February.

But that was mainly due to seasonal factors, said analysts.

The Japanese school year ends in March and many firms tend to push through lay-offs and cost cuts at the end of the accounting year.

Other indicators

Separate data showed that Japanese shoppers are wary about the future, as seen from a fall in both retail sales and household spending in March despite generally falling prices.

But a Reuters poll of analysts predicted that industrial production rose for the second month in a row in March.

This was in part due to rising exports fuelled by an economic recovery in the US and other countries that import Japanese goods.

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Business
World growth set for recovery
25 Apr 02 | Business
Japanese growth revised lower
24 Apr 02 | Business
Purse strings still tight in Japan
19 Apr 02 | Business
Japanese banks to merge
01 Apr 02 | Business
Weak start to Japan's new year
22 Mar 02 | Business
Japan slump 'slowing'
10 Mar 02 | Business
Company profits 'plunge' in Japan
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