Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 14:13 UK

Fall in Japan's unemployment rate

Unemployed people at an empoyment bureau in Tokyo
The rate of unemployment was expected to have continued rising

Japan's jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 5.5% in August from July's record high of 5.7%, official figures showed.

But the number of people unemployed hit a six-year high of 3.61 million in August, a figure which was up 32.7% on the same month of 2008.

Official figures also showed that household spending rose 2.6% in August from a year earlier.

Also on Friday, US figures for September showed 263,000 jobs had been lost, taking the jobless rate to 9.8%.

'Worst levels'

Analysts had been expecting the Japanese jobless rate to rise again in August.

"The unemployment rate fell earlier than expected, but we don't know yet whether it is just a dip for one month or something more continuous," said Masamichi Adachi, senior economist at JPMorgan Securities.

The quarterly Tankan survey of business confidence on Thursday had indicated that companies were feeling better than they had three months before, but that they still felt they had too much capacity and too many workers.

The number of workers employed in manufacturing fell almost 10% year on year, but the number employed in the care and hospitality sectors rose.

There was a cautious response to the figures from the government.

"The figures may give the impression that the situation has improved a bit," said Labour Minister Akira Nagatsuma.

"However, it continued to be around the worst levels in the post-war period."

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