TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan saw the first improvement in its average job availability ratio in three years in fiscal 2021 on the back of the gradual economic recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Tuesday.
The job-to-applicant ratio for the year through March rose 0.06 point to 1.16, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The ratio means there were 116 job openings for every 100 job seekers.
But the figure was still low compared with prepandemic levels, which registered 1.55 in fiscal 2019 before the economy was affected by the emergence of the coronavirus.
Separate government data showed the average jobless rate dropped 0.1 percentage point to 2.8 percent in fiscal 2021.
The average number of unemployed people in fiscal 2021 decreased 80,000 from the previous year to 1.91 million and that of people in work grew 40,000 to 67.06 million, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said.
"The situation in the fiscal year remained at a similar level to the previous year," an official of the internal affairs ministry said, adding it is still difficult to conclude whether the worst of the domestic labor issues have passed.
By sector, notable increases of workers were observed in healthcare and welfare, up 180,000 from the previous year to 8.92 million, and in telecommunications, up 140,000 to 2.59 million, among others.
There were on average 35.94 million regular workers in Japan each month in fiscal 2021, up 190,000 compared to the previous year, while there were 20.77 million nonregular workers, up 30,000, over the same period.
Although the number of people who were temporarily absent from work fell 510,000 from the previous year to 2.11 million in fiscal 2021, Yuriko Shimanaka, an economist at Mizuho Research & Technologies Ltd., pointed out the figure is still high compared with prepandemic levels.
"Many likely avoided becoming jobless by taking a leave of absence," she said, adding the situation should continue to be carefully monitored.
In March, the job availability ratio slightly improved to 1.22 from 1.21 in the previous month, up for the third consecutive month, the government said.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.6 percent in March, down 0.1 point from the previous month, improving for the second month in a row.
Looking ahead, Shimanaka said Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine may pose a downside risk to Japan's labor market.
"Corporate earnings may take a hit due to rising resource prices derived from the situation in Ukraine, and that could be a factor leading to a decrease in employment," Shimanaka said. It may take a while for the situation to return to prepandemic levels, she added.