Special Report: Global Financial Crisis
TOKYO, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Japan's unemployment rate climbed to a three-year high of 4.4 percent in February as big companies took pains to cut jobs to fight global recession, the government said on Tuesday.
The number of jobless people rose to 2.99 million, up 330,000 from a year ago and marked four straight months of increase, the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.
The result follows a decline in the rate in January to 4.1 percent.
In February, available new jobs in the country hit a six-year low with only 59 jobs available for every 100 job seekers, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
Meanwhile, the government said household spending fell 3.5 percent in February year-on-year.
Household spending figures are a key indicator of personal spending, which accounts for more than half of Japan's gross domestic product.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said the current employment situation remains severe. "There is a need for additional measures" to create new jobs, he said.
Labor Minister Yoichi Masuzoe told a news conference on Tuesday that the government is determined "to protect workers' jobs at any cost."
Japan's economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign demand, logged its worst performance in almost 35 years in the last quarter of 2008, contracting at an annualized pace of 12.1 percent, as the world's consumers cut spending amid the global economic downturn.
Data released last week showed that the country's exports nearly halved in February, which led to a sharp decline in industrial production.
Japan's industrial output fell for the fifth straight month in February, down by 9.4 month-on-month, said a report released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Monday.
Further shrinking demand for Japan's automobiles and high-tech products worldwide remained a key factor behind the output decrease, the ministry said.
It said the index of inventories registered a record fall, down by 4.2 percent to 103.7 while that of production at mines and factories was 68.7, compared with 100 for the base year of 2005.
To revive the sagging domestic economy, Prime Minister Taro Asois expected to unveil new stimulus plans during the G20 summit in London.
The new measures are expected to involve an extra budget of more than 10 trillion yen (102.5 billion U.S. dollars) to help meet the goal of creating two million new jobs over three years.
Japan, Asia's largest economy, has been hit hard by the world economic recession. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the country's economy to contract by 5.8 percent in 2009.