Japan’s jobless rate down, factory output up

Tokyo:Japan’s unemployment rate fell while factory output rose for the first time in four months in August — a sign the world’s third-largest economy is on a path of gradual recovery.

The jobless rate stood at 2.4 percent in August, down slightly from 2.5 percent the previous month, the internal affairs ministry said.

The figure — slightly lower than market expectations of 2.5 percent — is the first improvement in two months after the rate hit a 26-year low of 2.2 percent in May.

The jobs-to-applicants ratio is unchanged at its highest rate in 44 years, with 163 job offers going for every 100 job hunters, separate data from the labour ministry said.

Japan has long struggled with a tight labour market, thanks to an ageing society, a perennially low birth rate and very low levels of immigration.

Meanwhile, the country’s factory output in August edged up 0.7 percent from the previous month, the first rise in four months, the trade and industry ministry said.

The increase, however, was lower than market expectations of a 1.4 percent gain.

The latest figures come after Japan and the United States agreed to kick-start bilateral trade negotiations, easing fears that President Donald Trump would zero in on the US ally for his next tariff offensive.

“The rise in industrial production is chiefly due to recovery from dips due to heavy rains in western Japan in July,” Hirotaka Yazawa, economist at Mizuho Research Institute, told AFP.

“So far there is no negative impact from trade frictions, nor worries over the issues,” he added, referring to the Trump-Abe agreement on trade talks.

The ministry and analysts predict that factory output will keep rising in the next few months.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has said it expects to see trickle-down effects from positive corporate sector performances to the labour market that would eventually boost consumption, a key for its years-long battle with deflation.