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Japan’s Jobless Rate Falls Again

October 29, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Japan’s unemployment rate fell slightly in September to 4.6 percent as more men found work and frustrated jobseekers settled for temporary employment, the government said Friday.

The news was a mixed signal for the Japanese economy, which is still fighting its way out of its deepest downturn in decades. While the jobless rate is dropping, the figures do not suggest a robust recovery.

The September jobless rate fell from the 4.7 percent logged in August. Earlier this year, unemployment hit a record-high 4.9 percent in June and July before it began dropping later in the summer.

The total number of jobless came to 3.17 million in September, the Management and Coordination Agency said.

The Labor Ministry also said Friday that the ratio of job offers to job seekers, an indicator of demand for labor, edged higher to 0.47 in September from 0.46 in August. The ratio means that 47 jobs were being offered for every 100 workers seeking employment in September.

The improving unemployment figures along with other data indicate Japan is moving more firmly into recovery. Consumption is picking up, and the economy has grown for two quarters in a row.

But the recovery has been uneven. While first quarter growth was a robust 2 percent, the economy grew a meager 0.2 percent in the second quarter. Meanwhile, corporate downsizing is picking up pace.

The number of employed men increased from levels a year earlier by 20,000 _ the first time in 21 months that the number of male workers increased from the prior year.

The declining jobless rate, however, partly reflected a shift from better compensated permanent employment to temporary jobs, as the unemployed settled for less desirable work.

The number of part-time or temporary workers rose from levels a year earlier by 210,000, or 4.3 percent, to 5.12 million. The number of such workers has increased in every month since September 1996.

And payroll cost trimming by corporations led to a 0.2 percent drop in the number of full-time workers _ the 21st straight month of declines, the agency said.

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