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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK

Business: The Economy

Japan's jobless hits record high

Japan's homeless are growing in number

The number of people out of work in Japan rose again last month, hitting yet another record high.

March figures said 4.8% of the workforce were jobless, up 0.2% from the previous record set in February.

It is another sign of Japan's economic slump, as companies are increasingly pressured into slashing jobs.

Added pressure

[ image: Mr Obuchi: In the US to try to smooth over the strained relations]
Mr Obuchi: In the US to try to smooth over the strained relations
These latest figures increase the pressure on the Tokyo government to take measures that will help pull the economy out of its worst post war recession.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has just arrived in the United States for six days and is set to hold talks with President Bill Clinton.

The US is becoming increasingly annoyed at the imbalance of trade between the two countries and is looking to the Japanese leaders to implement stimulative economic measures.

Government spokesman Hiromu Nonaka said "the government is willing to take every possible measure" to cope with the worsening unemployment.

He went on to say the government remains cautious about spending more money to try to kick-start the economy.


[ image: A warm welcome in California for Mr Obuchi at the start of a six day tour]
A warm welcome in California for Mr Obuchi at the start of a six day tour
Japans' Management and Co-ordination Agency attributed the rise in unemployment to corporate restructuring, reporting record levels of workers laid off and college graduates and school-leavers unable to find jobs.

Japan's depressed consumer demand continues to handicap its economy.

Trade spat

Despite the warm welcome of a full state visit, Japan's premier arrived just as the US commerce department ruled his country was 'dumping' steel in the US market and that importers could be liable to pay duties.

Japanese steelmakers called the ruling unacceptable and threatened to take the dispute to a US trade court.

As well as the jobless figures, the Japanese government said spending by wage earners' households fell 3.6% in March from a year earlier, although spending represented 69.4% of disposable income, up 1.6% points from February.

Separately, Tokyo area consumer prices dropped 0.2% in April from a year earlier and nationwide consumer prices in March were 0.4% lower.

It was the eighth straight month of falls in Tokyo prices and the ninth nationwide, the longest series of declines on record.

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