Japan’s April jobless rate rises to 2.8% under COVID cloud

A worker cleans a counter at a pub in Nagoya. Japan’s coronavirus restrictions have have disproportionately hurt part-time workers, many of whom are women.   © Kyodo

MITSURU OBE, Nikkei Asia chief business news correspondent | Japan

TOKYO — Japan’s jobless rate stood at 2.8% in April, compared with 2.6% the previous month, the Statistics Bureau said Friday, as the country struggles with a fitful economic recovery while enduring the coronavirus pandemic.

Parts of Japan including Tokyo and Osaka have been under a state of emergency since April 25. This was preceded by another decree lasting from Jan. 8 to March 21.

The extended restrictions on activities such as dining and travel have disproportionately hurt the restaurant and hotel industries as well as non-regular workers, many of whom are women.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government is considering up to 300,000 yen ($2,730) in additional benefits for low-income families who do not already receive welfare support. Job training programs also are being expanded, but landing work now is more difficult.

The jobless rate stood at 2.4% before the pandemic.

Japan’s economy shrank 1.3% in the January-March period from the previous quarter, for an annualized pace of 5.1%. An April-June recovery appears increasingly uncertain, with the current state of emergency expected to be extended through June 20.

Labor markets in other countries also are struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels. The U.S. jobless rate in April was 6.1%, compared with 3.5% before the pandemic. Fitch Ratings anticipates it will take 18 months, until the fourth quarter of 2022, for the U.S. to regain full employment.

In separately released employment data, the ratio of Japan’s job openings to applicants stood at 1.09 in April, compared with 1.10 in March. A reading above 1 indicates that more jobs are available than people seeking employment.

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