The government said in a monthly report Wednesday that the Japanese economy is recovering from the pandemic, with the word “coronavirus” not included in its assessment for the first time in more than two years.
“The Japanese economy shows movements of picking up,” the Cabinet Office report said in its basic assessment, dropping the words “as the severe situation due to the novel coronavirus is easing” that followed the line in last month’s report.
The change in the expression reflects a shift in Japanese society where “social and economic activities have kept going even amid a resurgence of COVID-19,” a government official said during a press briefing.
The report, however, points to remaining downside risks to the economy as surging virus cases in China have led to lockdowns in large areas, including Shanghai, causing supply-chain disruptions.
Surging raw material prices due to Russia’s war in Ukraine were also cited as a risk.
By components of the economy, the report said private consumption in May “has shown movements of picking up,” using the same expression from the previous month.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) attends a meeting with Cabinet ministers on the assessment of the Japanese economy at his office in Tokyo on May 25, 2022. (Kyodo)
According to the nation’s gross domestic product data for the January to March period, personal spending remained flat, even under a quasi-state of emergency brought on by the Omicron variant surge, after increasing 2.5 percent in the previous quarter.
During most of the first quarter of 2022, many prefectures implemented anti-coronavirus measures that enabled their governors to ask people to refrain from traveling across prefectures and urge restaurants and bars to close early.
Private spending is expected to continue its recovery, led by people dining out and making business trips after virus-related curbs were fully lifted in late March, and people were able to spend a weeklong holiday from late April without any activity restrictions for the first time in three years, the report said.
The office said employment “shows movements of picking up,” revising its assessment upward for the first time in five months. It cited a decrease in jobless rates and growing job offerings by manufacturers and lodging and restaurant businesses.
Meanwhile, consumer prices “have been rising recently,” the report said, using the expression for the first time since December 2007, when the current assessment criteria were first adopted. The April report had said prices “have been rising moderately.”
The price of regular gasoline shows 170 yen per liter at a gas station in Tokyo on March 16, 2022. Rising gasoline and utility costs have put pressure on Japanese households. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
The core consumer price index, excluding volatile fresh food, accelerated 2.1 percent in April from a year earlier due to a sharp increase in energy and food prices.
The assessment on imports was downgraded for the first time in six months, led by a decrease in imports from China as lockdowns implemented under the country’s radical “zero-COVID” policy led to supply constraints. The report said imports have taken on “a weak tone” compared with its April assessment of them being “almost flat.”
Although the office retained its evaluation for industrial output, saying it “shows movements of picking up,” the report warned that China’s anti-coronavirus measures may have an impact in the coming month as some manufacturers in Japan have temporarily suspended production due to parts shortages.
The office revised its view on the world economy downward for the first time in 25 months, saying that recovery appears to be “pausing” in China due to strict COVID-19 restrictions in the world’s second-largest economy.
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