Sat, May 29, 2010 - Page 11 News List

Japan gets triple dose of sobering economic news

AP , TOKYO

Japan got a triple dose of sobering economic news yesterday as unemployment last month rose for the third straight month, prices kept sliding and household spending fell.

The country’s jobless rate climbed to 5.1 percent, hitting its highest level since January.

The number of jobless stood at 3.56 million, up 2.9 percent from the previous year, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The number of people with jobs fell 0.8 percent to 62.69 million.

Meanwhile, deflation worsened last month as consumer prices accelerated their retreat. Japan’s core consumer price index, which excludes fresh food, fell 1.5 percent from the previous year, extending declines for a 14th straight month.

The results underscore an uneven recovery in the world’s ­second-biggest economy, where robust exports have yet to bolster hiring or domestic demand.

Government figures on Thursday showed that exports last month surged 40 percent thanks to growing demand in China and elsewhere in Asia.

“Viewed over several months, the [unemployment] trend remains virtually flat,” Goldman Sachs economist Chiwoong Lee said in a note to clients. “The pace of deterioration has eased ... but we have yet to see signs of improvement.”

The core CPI for Tokyo — considered a barometer of broader price trends — fell 1.6 percent this month, pointing toward another nationwide drop. The government’s new high school tuition breaks weighed heavily on prices, dragging education costs down 13 percent last month.

Separately, the government said household spending slipped 0.7 percent last month from a year earlier as families spent less on clothing, recreation and food.

A labor ministry report also showed deteriorating conditions for those looking for work. The ratio of job offers to job seekers stood at a seasonally adjusted 0.48 last month, down from 0.49 the previous month.

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