Wed, Dec 01, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Japan factory output down, but upturn predicted

FALTERING SIGNS:The unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent in October, up from 5 percent in September. South Korea’s industrial output meanwhile fell by 4.2%

AP AND AFP, TOKYO and SEOUL

People ride an escalator yesterday outside a railway station in Tachikawa, western Tokyo. Japan’s jobless rate rose in October, but the availability of jobs improved, indicating companies are cautious about increasing payrolls because of the economy’s murky outlook.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Japan’s factories cut production for the fifth straight month in October, the government said yesterday, but the decrease wasn’t as bad as expected and a turnaround may be on the horizon.

Meanwhile, unemployment in Japan worsened slightly and consumer spending fell in October, showing improvements for average households may still take time.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said yesterday that industrial production fell 1.8 percent, pulled down as makers of cars and electronic goods scaled back output.

That marked the fifth straight month of drops, but was much better than the 3.4 percent fall predicted in a market survey by the Kyodo News agency.

In another positive sign, manufacturers surveyed by the ministry said they expected to crank up their factories in the next two months, forecasting increases of 1.4 percent last month and 1.5 percent this month.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government said that the national unemployment rate rose to 5.1 percent in October, up from 5 percent a month earlier. The figure is low by international standards, but -historically high for Japan.

Compared with a year earlier, the total number of jobless in the country decreased 0.3 percent to 3.34 million in October, the government said. Those with jobs nudged up by 150,000 to 62.86 million.

The unemployment rate counts only those who are looking for work, not individuals who have dropped out of the job market.

Tokyo also said yesterday that household spending fell a real 0.4 percent in October from a month earlier. Government subsidies for electronic goods and cars, put in place to prod consumer spending during the downturn, have expired in recent months.

Deflation is also weighing down the economy. Last week the government said consumer prices fell for the 20th straight month.

Separately, South Korea’s industrial output fell sharply in October from the preceding month, official figures showed yesterday, in an apparent sign the economy is slowing down after a fast post-crisis recovery.

Statistics Korea said production in mining and manufacturing declined a preliminary 4.2 percent from September, the third straight month-on-month fall.

Output had fallen 0.4 percent in September compared to August.

Year-on-year output rose 13.5 percent compared with a 3.9 percent gain in September.

The 12-month average leading index — a key indicator forecasting economic performance — rose 3.4 percent from a year earlier in October, against a 4.9 percent rise the preceding month.

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