Japan's average job availability in 2022 improved for the first time in four years as economic and social activities revived with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, government data showed Tuesday.
The job-to-applicant ratio rose 0.15 point from the previous year to 1.28, thanks to a stronger hospitality sector, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said. The figure has yet to reach the pre-pandemic level of 1.6 in 2019, indicating that a full recovery will take time.
The ratio means there were 128 job openings for every 100 job seekers.
The pandemic pushed down the ratio to 1.18 in 2020 and 1.13 in the following year.
"There was a noticeable recovery, mainly among accommodation and restaurant businesses, which had been struggling due to the spread of COVID-19," a ministry official said.
"While difficulty is seen in some parts of the labor sector, such as with some industries experiencing a slow recovery in job openings, there is a mild recovery (in the situation)," labor minister Katsunobu Kato said at a press conference.
Japan is in the midst of its eighth wave of infections, but the government has decided to downgrade COVID-19 in May to the same category as seasonal influenza and other common infectious diseases, a move that is hoped will further fuel the economy.
October's relaxation of rules regarding the entry of tourists to Japan pushed foreign arrivals up, while the government's domestic tourism subsidy program has aided the hospitality sector.
December's job availability ratio was 1.35, unchanged from the previous month, and the number of job offers from a year before was up 4.8 percent.
Among the industries, lifestyle and entertainment sectors saw the sharpest rise in job offers at 18.5 percent, followed by the accommodation and restaurant services at 6.9 percent, both from a year earlier.
In contrast, employment offers in the construction sector decreased by 6.2 percent, while manufacturing had a slight fall at 0.1 percent.
Separate data released the same day by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications showed the country's unemployment rate in 2022 also saw a recovery for the first time in four years, dipping by 0.2 point from the year before to 2.6 percent.
In 2019, the jobless rate stood at 2.4 percent, but it worsened to 2.8 percent in 2020 and 2021.
The number of unemployed people stood at 1.79 million in 2022.
December's unemployment rate was unchanged from the previous month at 2.5 percent, data showed.
The number of unemployed people in December dropped by 20,000 from the previous month to 1.71 million on a seasonally adjusted basis. Of those, 690,000 voluntarily left their jobs, down 2.8 percent from the previous month, while 390,000 were laid off, down 7.1 percent.
The number of workers in the lifestyle and entertainment services sectors fell 0.4 percent from a year earlier to 2.22 million people working on an unadjusted basis.
Meanwhile, workers in the accommodation and restaurant sector rose 2.9 percent from a year before to 3.96 million.