Job availability dropped in May to its lowest level in nearly five years while the unemployment rate rose to a three-year high, due to the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Tuesday.
The job-to-applicant ratio worsened to 1.20 from 1.32 in April, down for the fifth straight month to hit its lowest level since July 2015, meaning there were 120 job openings for every 100 job seekers, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
The country’s latest job availability rate saw the steepest month-to-month fall, of 0.12 percentage point, since a 0.20 point drop in January 1974 when Japan’s economy entered a downturn phase in the wake of the 1973 global oil crisis, the labor ministry said.
Separate data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications showed the jobless rate in May grew to 2.9 percent from 2.6 percent in April for the third consecutive monthly increase, hitting its highest level since the 3.1 percent logged in May 2017.
The unemployment rate rose for three straight months for the first time since it worsened for six months in a row from February to July in 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to the data.
The results show the pace of labor market deterioration accelerated under the government’s state of emergency declaration made in response to the virus, which was lifted completely on May 25 with requests withdrawn for restrictions on economic activities.
During the state of emergency, which was in place from April, the government asked businesses to suspend operations and people to refrain from making nonessential outings to prevent the further spread of the virus. The measure took a heavy toll on the economy.
In the reporting month, the job availability ratio in Okinawa Prefecture fell to 0.78, and the figures for six other prefectures among the nation’s 47 sank below the threshold of 1, the labor ministry said.
New job offers decreased 32.1 percent from a year before, with those from the accommodation and food service sector plunging 55.9 percent and from firms in the lifestyle and entertainment-related fields, including travel agencies, sinking 44.2 percent.
The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed increased 190,000 from April to 1.97 million. Among them, 740,000 voluntarily left their jobs, up 40,000 from a month earlier, while 520,000 were new job seekers, up 20,000, and another 520,000 were laid off, up 70,000.
Before seasonal adjustment, the number of people in work in April fell 760,000 from a year earlier to 66.56 million, down for the second straight month, including 29.54 million women, down 330,000.
The number of people not in the labor force stood at 42.21 million, up 370,000 from a year earlier, following a 580,000 rise the previous month.
A government official told reporters those figures apparently show that many of those who had lost their job gave up on seeking a new one.
Individual proprietors and employees forced to be temporarily absent from work decreased to 4.23 million from 5.97 million in the previous month, but rose 2.74 million from a year earlier.