According to the March Labour Force Survey released on April 30 by the Management and Coordination Agency of Japan, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at a record high of 4.8 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from February. The number of unemployed increased by 260,000 during the month to 3.39 million. The figure is 620,000 higher than in the same month in 1998.
Among those seeking work, 1.06 million had left their previous job involuntarily due to bankruptcy, dismissal, or related reasons, an increase of 100,000 from the previous month. Voluntary quits for personal or family reasons decreased over the previous month by 60,000 to 1.07 million. The number of new graduates who still had not found employment immediately after graduation stood at 300,000, an increase of 170,000 from the previous month.
By gender, the number of unemployed males increased by 50,000 to approximately 2.03 million, while the number of unemployed females increased by 110,000 to about 1.37 million. The unemployment rate for both males and females stood at 4.8 percent, up 0.4 percent.
Despite the deteriorating employment situation, as a whole, Japan's enterprises still feel they employ more people than is necessary. This was revealed in the Survey on Labour Economy Trend, conducted by the Ministry of Labour in February. The survey polled 2,965 private establishments with more than 30 regular employees. The diffusion index (DI) a diagnostic index for labor excess, calculated by subtracting the percentage of those establishments answering that they possess excess labor from the percentage of those claiming a shortage of labor was minus 20 points for all firms in manufacturing, construction, transportation and communications, wholesaling and retailing, and services. The figure rose one point from the November 1998 figure, and indicates the highest excess labor index since February 1994, when statistics for the sum of the five industries were first compiled. The DI was minus 34 points in manufacturing, five points below the index for November, and minus 25 points for construction (down nine points).
The proportion of firms that had adjusted their employment levels during the fourth quarter of 1998 was 33 percent, up from 30 percent over the previous quarter. Specifically, the highest figure was in manufacturing at 46 percent (up from 40 percent); it was flat at 25 percent in construction and at 24 percent in transportation and communications. For the wholesale and retail trades, it dropped from 25 percent to 23 percent, and revealed the same figures for the service sector.
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