Japan’s unemployment falls, job availability rises

Despite the country being in a pandemic state of emergency, its unemployment rate declined and job availability increased, government statistics revealed.
By: | March 4, 2021

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dipped marginally to 2.9% in January from the 3.0% last December.  

Also, the job availability ratio rose to 1.10 in January from 1.05 a month earlier, meaning that there were 110 openings for every 100 job seekers, said the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. 

The figures have improved despite Japan imposing its second state of emergency related to the pandemic since early this year in the Tokyo metropolitan area and other regions later. Dining establishments were forced to close early and the public was asked to refrain from unnecessary outings.  

“We can’t deny that the impact of the pandemic was felt, but concerns that the state of emergency would worsen (the jobless rate) did not materialise,” said an official of the internal affairs ministry. 

The official added that the labor market’s relative resilience could be partly due to the limited scope of the latest state of emergency that covered just 11 of the country’s 47 prefectures. The previous emergency declaration was imposed nation-wide and was fully lifted last May.  

In addition, government support for businesses looking to retain their employees has also helped prevent a sharp drop in the unemployment rate which had hovered around 3% in recent months. 

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However, Takuya Hoshino, an economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said, “The jobless rate is unlikely to continue improving. Given the impact on the overall economy, the jobless rate could have hit 4% without government support. Once the state of emergency is lifted and the government moves toward scaling back support, the jobs market will likely take a bigger hit.” 

Economists have said the impact of the latest state of emergency may only be felt in coming months, according to Kyodo News.