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Unemployment rises after quake

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Japan's unemployment rate in April rose for the first time in six months (AP)

Japan's unemployment rate in April rose for the first time in six months (AP)

Japan's unemployment rate in April rose for the first time in six months (AP)

Japan's unemployment rate in April rose for the first time in six months, while the nation's industrial production rebounded weakly from a record drop following March's earthquake and tsunami.

But output was seen picking up strongly in May and June as carmakers and other manufacturers get back on line.

The jobless rate edged up to 4.7% from 4.6% in March due to job losses in the retail and wholesale sectors, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said. The number of workers in those sectors dropped in April by 390,000 from a year earlier.

"A lot of part-time workers in the wholesale and retail sectors lost their jobs due to weak demand following the March tsunami," said Hiroshi Watanabe, economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research.

The number of workers in the hotel and restaurant businesses in April also fell by 30,000 from a year earlier, underscoring a plunge in tourism demand following the March disasters and an ongoing crisis at a tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant.

Japan's industrial production - a key barometer of economic health - inched up 1.0% in April from the previous month after plunging a record 15.5% in March amid supply disruptions in the wake of the disasters, the government said.

The earthquake and tsunami killed more than 24,000 people and destroyed hundreds of factories in Japan's coastal north east, forcing manufacturers such as Toyota and Sony to suspend production.

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The disasters sent Japan's economy into a recession, and Moody's Investors Service warned today that it could downgrade Japan's sovereign ratings due to faltering economic growth and the country's massive public debt.

The rating agency put both Japan's Aa2 foreign and local currency ratings on review for a possible downgrade.

While the April factory output fell short of a projected rise of 2.2%, the government said industrial production will pick up quickly in coming months, with a rise of 8.0% expected in May and another 7.7% in June.


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