Japan’s February unemployment rate falls as job seekers stay away

People are reflected on a blank electronic bulletin board believed to show Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities company on October 1, 2020 in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

TOKYO (Kyodo) – Japan’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 2.7% in February, government data showed on Tuesday, as a resurgence in coronavirus infections led people to keep jobs rather than seek new employers.

Separate government data from the Department of Health, Labor and Social Care showed the job availability ratio in February rose slightly to 1.21 from 1.20 in January for the second consecutive month of improvement. The ratio means that there were 121 job offers for every 100 job seekers.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage points from January, when the government declared a quasi-state of COVID-19 emergency in which restaurants and bars in some areas were told to close more. early amid the spread of the highly contagious variant of Omicron, according to the Ministry of Interior and Communications.

The near-state of emergency was later extended to cover most of the country’s 47 prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, in the month under review, affecting sectors such as wholesale and retail trade, an official said. of the ministry.

The number of people employed in the wholesale and retail trade sectors fell by 460,000 from a year ago to 10.54 million. In the education sector, which saw many schools temporarily close during the near-state of emergency, the number fell by 200,000 year on year to 3.37 million.

The total number of unemployed in February fell by 30,000 from the previous month to 1.88 million, following a rise of 40,000 in January, the data showed.

Among them, 450,000 were new job seekers, 40,000 less than the previous month. The number of those who voluntarily quit their jobs was 740,000, up 30,000, while 600,000 were made redundant, up 10,000.

Despite a drop in the unemployment rate, the ministry official said the overall labor market was still impacted by the pandemic, citing the large number of people who are still on furlough.

The unadjusted number of furloughed workers topped 2 million for the second month in a row. The figure stood at 2.42 million in February, after 2.49 million in January.

Megumi Wada, a researcher at the Daiwa Research Institute, said the drop in the number of new job seekers has contributed to the drop in the unemployment rate, but that it is “difficult to see a trend there because the overall movement is weak”.

“Recent COVID restrictions have forced businesses to operate for shorter hours rather than shutting down completely,” she said, adding that the policy design has partly helped reduce the number of unemployed.

Looking ahead, the AMA said the unemployment rate should improve, particularly in the service sector, thanks to the complete lifting of the quasi-state of emergency last week and progress in administration. COVID-19 booster injections.

The latest data showed the total number of people at work remained unchanged from the previous month at 66.93 million seasonally adjusted.

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