Japan's 2021 job availability down for 3rd straight year

Japan's job availability ratio fell for the third straight year in 2021 as companies continued to feel the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and offered fewer job openings, government data showed Tuesday.
The ratio stood at 1.13, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said. While that still meant 113 openings for every 100 job seekers, it was down 0.05 point from the previous year, following a 0.42 point plunge in 2020.
The number of job seekers grew 6.6 percent last year to 1.9 million, including full-time homemakers trying to make up for falling family incomes due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. Job offers, meanwhile, only increased 1.6 percent to 2.2 million.
The labor market was swayed by the pandemic in 2021 as surging infections prompted the government to repeatedly put Tokyo and other areas under states of emergency that requested residents to refrain from non-essential outings and eateries to close earlier.
The country's jobless rate in 2021 stood at 2.8 percent, unchanged from the previous year but worse than the 2.4 percent rate in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
The average number of unemployed people climbed 20,000 from a year earlier to 1.9 million, increasing for the second straight year.
Nonregular workers, many of whom were employed in the restaurant industry, a sector hit hard by the pandemic, fell 260,000 to 20.6 million, down for the second consecutive year.
Workers in the accommodation and restaurant sector totaled 3.7 million, the smallest number since comparable data became available in 2002.
"With on-and-off restrictions, the eating out sector was unable to fully recover its workforce," said Naoko Ogata, a senior economist at the Japan Research Institute.
In December alone, the job-to-applicant ratio improved to 1.16 from the previous month's 1.15. The unemployment rate fell to 2.7 percent from 2.8 percent in November after the latest state of emergency was fully lifted in October.
The lodging and eatery sector showed some recovery.
Although the number of workers in the sector dropped 30,000 from a year before, the pace of decline slowed from 190,000 and 440,000 drops in November and October, respectively.
The outlook remains uncertain, however, as the country has been facing a resurgence of coronavirus cases, with most areas of the country again under a quasi-state of emergency mainly to prevent the spread of the virus at eateries.
With the fresh restrictions in place, "more people are expected to refrain from going out and the recovery (of the labor market) will slow," Ogata said.

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