TOKYO (AP) _ Japan's jobless rate rose in December for the first time in six months, edging up to 4.6 percent from 4.5 percent in November amid surging job cuts at companies under pressure to trim costs.

Unemployed people totaled 2.88 million in December, up 150,000 from the year before, the statistics bureau of the Management and Coordination Agency said Tuesday.

Reflecting the impact of corporate restructuring, the number of people seeking work who left their jobs involuntarily rose by 30,000 on year to 920,000. The number of jobholders fell by 160,000 to 64.27 million, the agency said.

The rate was slightly higher than the 4.5 percent forecast by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

Japan's unemployment rate has risen as the nation struggles to rebound from its worst recession in decades. The jobless rate stood at a record 4.9 percent in June and July last year.

The government has used public spending to jump-start the economy, which it expects to grow by 1 percent in the coming fiscal year beginning in April.

Underscoring the severity of the employment situation, the data showed that more and more jobs are being filled by temporary workers. Companies are increasingly turning to temps, who cost less in terms of benefits.

The number of temporary job holders continued to rise in December to 5.43 million, up 3.8 percent from the previous year. The rise has continued since September 1996.

The number of people with permanent full-time jobs fell 550,000 to 46.34 million last month, the 24th straight decrease. That drop was much sharper than the 400,000 recorded in November.

Separately, the Labor Ministry said the ratio of job offers to job seekers, an indicator of demand for labor, stayed at 0.49 in December, unchanged from November. The ratio shows that 49 jobs were being offered for every 100 workers seeking employment in December.

In all of 1999, the job offers-to-seekers ratio averaged 0.48, the lowest since the ministry began compiling comparable data in 1963. The new offers-to-seekers ratio averaged 0.87, matching the 1982 average.