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Overtime brightens Japan picture

Japan's economy is showing signs of a cyclical recovery, analysts say.
Japan's economy is showing signs of a cyclical recovery, analysts say.

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TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- In another sign of potentially better times ahead for the Japanese economy, new data shows average overtime pay for Japanese wage earners rose in July.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Monday that overtime pay, which is seen as a barometer of income conditions, rose 4.6 percent in July from a year earlier to 18,025 yen.

It was the 12th straight month of increases.

The world's second largest economy has shown signs of improvement recently, with equity markets at 14-month highs and an increase in capital spending suggesting a cyclical recovery is underway.

Last Friday, the government reported Japanese industrial output rose a more than expected 0.5 percent in July over June.

Analysts say the key is that the U.S. economy is looking better, lifting demand for Japanese exports.

After a slow June, Japanese export growth in July accelerated to 5.6 percent year on year.

Early last month, the government said GDP grew a surprisingly strong 0.6 percent in the June quarter over the previous quarter, with growth on an annualized basis of 2.3 percent. (Full story)

It was the sixth straight quarter of growth and well above a median forecast of 0.2 percent.

Analysts have upgraded their economic forecasts recently, with ING suggesting last week that GDP growth in the year to March 2004 could reach 2.3 percent. On Monday Barclays Japan set its forecast at 1.6 percent.

Barclays said that while one month did not make a trend, it believed export growth may continue accelerating, given the state of the global economy.

But Monday's data from the government shows that while July overtime payments were up, total cash earnings fell 1.9 percent to 401,904 yen, down for the first time in three months. These earnings include overtime and special bonuses.

Average regular pay in July was 260,691 yen, overtime pay was 18,025 yen and special payments were 123,188 yen, the ministry said.

In terms of hours worked, overtime rose in July for the 13th straight month, growing by 4.3 percent from a year earlier.

Average monthly regular working hours were 147.8 hours, with overtime of 9.8 hours.

The number of full-time workers in July was 43.022 million, down 0.6 percent from a year earlier. Part-time worker numbers rose 1.8 percent year on year to 9.685 million.

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