Japan August jobless rate falls to 2.5%; job availability rises

Japan's unemployment rate fell to 2.5 percent in August and the availability of jobs continued to improve for the eighth month in a row, helped by a recovery in the services sector as the economic hit from the COVID-19 pandemic receded, government data showed Friday.
The job-to-applicant ratio rose 0.03 point from July to 1.32 in August, meaning there were 132 job openings for every 100 job seekers, according to data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Japan's economy has been recovering from the pandemic, with no antivirus curbs imposed by the government, though the nation struggled to contain a surge in newly confirmed cases in August.
Despite the decline in the jobless rate from 2.6 percent in July, the first improvement in four months, it remained higher than before the pandemic, with the job availability ratio yet to recover to a level seen before the outbreak.
"The data confirmed a recovery in the labor market is in place," said Megumi Wada, a researcher at the Daiwa Institute of Research.
"Although the number of job offers has been on the rise, the recovery in job seekers has yet to keep up with it. Restaurants and other service sectors struggled to secure labor even before the pandemic so we need to see whether the recovery will continue in those sectors as demand picks up," she said.
The hotel and restaurant industry marked the sharpest increase in job openings, up 51.1 percent from a year earlier, followed by a 28.9 percent jump in offers by entertainment, tourism and other service providers.
The total number of unemployed people dropped by 10,000, or 0.6 percent, from the previous month to 1.75 million on a seasonally adjusted basis, while those on payrolls fell 40,000, or 0.1 percent, to 67.30 million, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said.
Japan reported 690,000 people who left their jobs voluntarily for reasons such as seeking higher pay and better working conditions, down 8.0 percent from the previous month. Some 430,000 were laid off, unchanged from July.
The government has been seeking to restore normalcy to socioeconomic activity as much as possible, as vaccinations against COVID-19 progress.
But the surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by its seventh wave also prompted people to take time off.
The number of people temporarily absent from work jumped 100,000 from July to 2.68 million in August, including those who tested positive and close contacts who had to stay home, according to the internal affairs ministry.

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