Japan’s Job Prospects Improve as Companies Plan to Hire

Job prospects in Japan improved in January as the world’s third-biggest economy showed signs of rebounding from a contraction in the fourth quarter.

A report showed 73 jobs available for every 100 applicants, the most since November 2008, the Labor Ministry said. The median forecast of 27 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for the gauge, known as the job-to-applicant ratio, to rise to 0.72.

The figure added to evidence that the economy is regaining momentum, with reports earlier this week showing that industrial production and retail sales exceeded analysts’ estimates in January. Brighter prospects have yet to help the nation overcome deflation, with a report today showing consumer prices slid for a fourth month.

“Demand for labor is still solid because there is still considerable reconstruction demand in disaster-affected areas,” said Junko Nishioka, chief Japan economist at RBS Securities Japan Ltd.

The yen traded at 81.33 as of 12:06 p.m. in Tokyo. It has weakened about 7 percent since touching a postwar high of 75.35 in October. The almost 21 trillion yen ($258 billion) the government has tapped in extra budgets to rebuild after last year’s earthquake and tsunami may also help to support the labor market.

Job Opportunities

“Industrial production is expanding, and if the yen’s weakening continues or stabilizes, the labor market could continue to improve,” Takuji Okubo, chief Japan economist at Societe Generale SA in Tokyo, said before the report. “While the labor market won’t see exciting growth, there are good indications that domestic demand will expand job opportunities.”

The jobless rate rose to 4.6 percent from 4.5 percent, the statistics bureau said in Tokyo today, compared with the 4.5 percent median forecast of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The unemployment rates in disaster-stricken Iwate and Fukushima prefectures were below the national average at 4.3 percent, a statistics bureau survey showed.

Capital spending jumped by the most in nearly five years in the fourth quarter, a boost the finance ministry said yesterday was partly due to rebuilding factories damaged in the catastrophe.

The yen’s hovering around a postwar high last year battered manufacturers such as Nissan Motor Co. and contributed to a record monthly trade deficit in January. The currency has weakened since the Bank of Japan boosted monetary stimulus and set an inflation goal on Feb. 14.

Bridgestone Corp, the world’s biggest tiremaker by market value, said Feb. 16 it will spend about 4.7 billion yen on domestic plants to increase production.

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