Japan’s jobless rate hits 26-year low

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TOKYO, June 29, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Japan’s jobless rate slumped to a 26-year
low in May while the jobs-to-applicants ratio hit new record high, as the
country struggles with labour shortages, official figures showed Friday.

The unemployment rate fell to 2.2 percent from 2.5 percent in the previous
three months, according to a survey by the internal affairs ministry, the
lowest level since August-October of 1992.

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

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.

The government has proposed slightly loosening tight restrictions on
foreign workers to help ease the problem.

A separate survey by the trade and industry ministry released Friday showed
factory output edged down 0.2 percent in May.

It was the first decline in four months — but the ministry kept the view
it has held since January that “industrial production is picking up slowly.”

The latest data comes after Japan’s economy slid into reverse for the first
time in two years at the beginning of 2018, hit by sluggish consumption and a
winter cold snap.

The economy contracted by 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter in the January-
March period, compared with growth of 0.1 percent at the end of 2017.

That brought to an end a series of eight consecutive quarters of growth, a
winning streak not seen since the heady days of the “miracle” boom of the
1980s.

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