Japan's unemployment rate rose to 2.6 percent in February from 2.4 percent in the previous month, marking the first increase in seven months as more people entered the job market amid higher living costs, the government said Friday.

The job availability ratio fell 0.01 point from January to 1.26, meaning there were 126 jobs available for every 100 job seekers, according to separate data. It was the first decline in three months.

The increase in the number of job seekers was greater than that of job openings, possibly due to a rise in the number of elderly people trying to earn an income to supplement their pensions due to high living costs.

The total number of people with jobs in February rose 0.3 percent from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted 67.83 million, while those who were unemployed climbed 7.1 percent to 1.82 million, with 490,000 people newly seeking jobs, up 30,000 from the previous year, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

"Wage hikes may be contributing to growing momentum for people to look for work," a ministry official said.

"Some people's work contracts have also ended, and they are re-entering the market ahead of the start of the new fiscal year" the official added.

Of the unemployed, 770,000 people left their jobs voluntarily, up 2.7 percent from January, while 440,000 people were let go by their employer, up 22.2 percent.

The number of unemployed women rose 80,000 to 81 million. The figure for men increased 50,000 to 1.01 million.

Among sectors that shed job offers in February, the manufacturing sector declined 8.7 percent, while the accommodation and food services sector fell 8.4 percent. The lifestyle and entertainment services sector shrank 7.9 percent.

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