Japan output, jobs data improve

POSITIVES::Factory output rose 0.2 percent in March, unemployment slid to 4.1 percent and household spending rose 5.2 percent, underlining hopes of a recovery


Wed, May 01, 2013 - Page 15

Japan manufacturing and employment showed slight improvements in March, buttressing hopes that the economy may be headed for a moderate recovery.

Factory output rose 0.2 percent, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said yesterday, in the fourth straight monthly increase. It pointed to strength in chemicals, electrical components, telecommunication equipment and steam turbines.

Unemployment edged lower to 4.1 percent from 4.3 percent in February, while household spending rose 5.2 percent in real terms from a year earlier. Such spending accounts for about 60 percent of Japanese economic activity.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has raised government spending and pushed for aggressive monetary easing to help extricate the economy from chronic deflation.

The central bank, which has committed to achieving 2 percent inflation within two years, says it expects a moderate recovery by midyear, but has warned that uncertainties in the domestic and global economies could foil those hopes.

Key to the success of the policies will be increased spending by households and corporations, partly due to expectations that prices will rise. So far, increases in spending have been attributed mainly to luxury purchases by share investors splashing out after seeing gains in their portfolios.

The Nikkei 225 stock benchmark has risen nearly 28 percent in the past three months. Shares closed 0.17 percent lower, or 23.27 points, at 13,860.86 yesterday after a long weekend. The financial markets were shut on Monday and will be closed again on Friday for the Golden Week holiday.

The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported that job availability improved in March, with 86 jobs offered for every 100 job seekers. The rate was 82 for the fiscal year that ended in March, up from 68 the year before, it said.

Job cuts occurred in manufacturing, finance, information technology and logistics, while the biggest gains were in healthcare, construction and education.

The number of male workers fell, while the number of female workers rose, suggesting companies were likely relying on part-time employees to meet any increases in demand.

Japan’s real estate sector has also shown glimmers of a rebound, as property developers knock down older homes built after World War II to rebuild on suburban properties.