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Economy in Brief

A Group of Disappointing Japanese Economic Indicators for February 
by Louise Curley March 29, 2005

After strong economic data for Japan in January, the latest indicators are disappointing. Retail sales declined by almost 3% from January to February and were only 0.9% above February, 2004. Employment declined 0.4% in February and unemployment was up 2.7%, resulting in a 2 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate to 4.7%

In spite of lower employment, the average worker's household income increased by 4.5% in February and his disposable income was up 5%, suggesting an increase in wages. These data are, however, seasonally unadjusted. The seasonally adjusted index of worker's income actually shows a decline of 0.3%. Such a decline together with concern over employment prospects as a result of the rise in the unemployment rate may have been an important factor causing the average household to reduce living expenditures by almost 9% seasonally unadjusted or 4% seasonally adjusted in the month. The indexes of the worker household's expenditures and the broader retail sales series are shown in the attached chart.

  Feb 05 Jan 05 Feb 04 M/M% Y/Y%  2004 %   2003%  2002%
Employment (10,000) 6339 6357 6324 -0.4 0.2 0.2 -0.2 -1.3
Unemployment (10,000) 310 302 332 2.6 -6.6 -10.6 -2.4 5.5
Retail Sales (2000=1000 93.2 95.8 92.4 -2.7 0.9 -0.9 -1.7 -4.3
Worker's Household                
Income (1000 Yen) 469.9 119.7 472.8 4.5 -0.6 1.0 -2.6 -2.3
Income (2000=1000 95.6 95.9 96.3 -0.3 -0.7 1.3 -2.9 -2.2
Disposable Inc (1000 Yen) 400.1 381.1 403.9 5.0 -1.0 1.0 -2.7 -2.6
Living Expenditures (1000 Yen) 371.2 406.8 383.3 -8.7 -3.1 1.5 -1.6 -1.2
Living Expenditures(2000=100) 96.5 100.7 100.6 -4.2 -4.1 1.6 -1.5 -1.4
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