Padangekspres.net-The unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent in May, down 0.2 point from April for the first improvement in three months and showing signs of gradual recovery from the March disaster, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Friday.
Separate data issued by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry showed that job availability in May was unchanged from the previous month, with the ratio of job offers to job seekers staying at 0.61. The figure means 61 jobs were available for every 100 people looking for work.
The unemployment figure, however, hid the seriousness of the nation's labor conditions as data from the three prefectures hit hardest by the March disaster — Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — were excluded.
Releasing the first data from the severely affected regions, the internal affairs ministry, using samples taken from areas other than coastal regions devastated by the disaster, estimated the jobless rate at 6.5 percent in Iwate and 7.0 percent in Miyagi.
The ministry said it expects to start releasing data from Fukushima Prefecture in its August survey.
The seasonally adjusted job-to-applicant ratio showed an improvement in the three disaster-hit prefectures, standing at 0.45, up 0.04 point from the previous month, in Iwate, at 0.46, up 0.02 point, in Miyagi, and at 0.50, up 0.01 point, in Fukushima.
On the hiring side, manufacturers' further restoration of production since the disaster and rebuilding of devastated areas led to increased employment opportunities.
The internal affairs ministry said fewer people lost jobs in May, helping push the jobless rate down.
"The number of people looking for jobs remained at a high level and it will need careful monitoring," a ministry official said.
The jobless rate for men fell to 4.8 percent from 5.0 percent, while that for women rose to 4.3 percent from 4.2 percent.
The number of jobless people stood at 2.93 million, down about 380,000 from a year earlier.