TOKYO — Japan's unemployment rate improved for the first time in four months in November, reflecting the country's chronic labour shortage, government data showed on Friday.
The seasonally adjusted jobless rate stood at 2.2 per cent in the reporting month, down 0.2 percentage point from October, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
The seasonally unadjusted number of unemployed was 1.51 million in November, down 170,000 from a year earlier and the lowest level since December 1992.
Among these, 630,000 people voluntarily left their jobs, down 120,000 from the previous year, and the number of new job seekers fell 20,000 to 350,000, while 220,000 people were laid off, unchanged from October.
The number of people in work continued to expand for the 83rd straight month, up 530,000 from a year earlier to 67.62 million in November.
Separate data from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare showed the job availability ratio stood at 1.57, unchanged from October. The ratio means there were 157 job openings for every 100 job seekers.
A ministry official said the government maintains the view that the employment situation is "steadily improving."
Still, private-sector economists said salaries are unlikely to rise despite such a tight labor market because the increase in the number of people in work has depended on part-time and other nonregular workers, who are typically paid less than regular employees.
"The pace of wage increase is expected to remain slow next year mainly at big companies amid sluggish exports," said Yuichi Kodama, chief economist at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co.
The percentage of the working-age population between 15 and 64 years old with jobs rose 0.6 point from a year earlier to 77.9 per cent, the second highest on record following 78.2 per cent marked in October.
The ratio for women with jobs in that age group grew 1.2 points to 71.2 per cent, while that for men was 84.5 per cent, up 0.1 point. — KYODO