Japan factory output up in March as jobless rate stays flat

TOKYO, April 27, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Japan’s factory output picked up in March while the jobless rate stayed low, official data showed Friday as the world’s third largest economy continues a gradual but steady expansion.

Factory output rose 1.2 percent month-on-month, according to industry ministry data, beating market expectations of a 0.5 percent rise, from the 2.0 percent rise in February.

Separate government data showed the labour market stayed tight, with the jobless rate at 2.5 percent in March, unchanged from February and against 2.4 percent in January.

The rate is near the lowest level in 25 years.

The ratio of job offers to job hunters edged up 0.01 points to 1.59 in March, meaning there were 159 job offers to every 100 job seekers.

Japan has notched up the longest period of GDP expansion since the “bubble” boom days of the late 1980s, but it has struggled to achieve the 2.0 percent inflation target thought crucial to boosting the economy.

The Bank of Japan is widely expected to maintain its current ultra-loose monetary policy and will announce the results of its latest meeting later Friday.

“Jobs data were quite strong, maybe because of a virtuous cycle created by reforms” in the workplace led by the government, Takuji Aida, chief economist at Societe Generale said in a commentary.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has introduced a raft of workplace reforms intended, among other things, to tackle notoriously long work hours.

Improvement in the job market would contribute to economic expansion and the stronger inflation long coveted by central bankers, Aida said.