Japanese unemployment just hit a 20-year low at a level the West could only dream of

Japanese unemployment just hit a level that most Western states can only dream of.

The unemployment rate, made up of people both out of work and looking, slumped down to 3.1% in October. The rate for men is 3.4%, and the rate for women is 2.7%. That’s the lowest in two decades.

By comparison, both UK and US unemployment are currently pretty low by post-crisis standards, but rates are still considerably higher than Japan’s. In October, the UK’s came in at 5.4%, and the US is at 5%.

It’s popular to bash Japan’s economy, particularly because of its lack of growth — but a significant part of that is down to the fact that it’s an ageing and shrinking population. On a per-capita basis, people aren’t worse off.

Here’s how Japan’s jobless situation looks over a the past 25 years:

A bundle of other data released on Friday was bad news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to reflate Japan’s economy.

Consumer prices excluding food and energy, or “core” inflation, rose by just 0.7%, the lowest since July and considerably less than the Bank of Japan’s 2% target. Japan has been mired in low inflation or deflation for decades now, which hasn’t helped its significant debt problem.

Overall household spending also came in considerably weaker than expected, slumping 2.4% year-on-year. Analysts had expected a 0.1% boost, after a 0.4% decline was recorded in October. The Nikkei, Japan’s main index of stocks, fell by 0.30%.

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