Japan's unemployment rate rose slightly in April, official data showed on Tuesday, with analysts highlighting the struggling electronics sector as contributing to job losses.
The nation's jobless rate edged up to 4.6 percent from 4.5 percent in March, the internal affairs ministry said, defying economists' expectations that it would remain flat according to Dow Jones Newswires.
However, positive data showing household spending on the rise gave hope amid a lumbering economic recovery.
The news came as reports said Tuesday Panasonic may halve its 7,000-strong Osaka headquarters as part of a bid to streamline the Japanese electronics giant and turn a profit following a record $9.7 billion annual loss.
"Japan's job market is expected to stay at the current level for now but may make progress in line with an expected gradual recovery of the Japanese economy," said Hideki Matsumura, senior economist at Japan Research Institute.
"Japan's job situation is divided over business sectors. The electronics sector is, for example, on the negative side as they are still struggling to find a cue to pick up," he added.Japan's electronics sector has been hit by the appreciation of the yen, which makes exporters' products less competitive overseas, while falling prices in the face of tough competition and slow demand at home have also eaten into profits.
The government also said Tuesday that household spending rose an inflation-adjusted 2.6 percent from a year earlier in April, higher than an average 2.2 percent growth forecast by economists.
Average spending per household came to 301,948 yen ($3,790) in the month.
"The household spending figures are not so bad," Matusmura said.
The labour ministry said in a separate report Tuesday that the ratio of jobs available to job seekers stood at 0.79 in April, up from 0.76 in March, meaning there were 79 posts on offer for every 100 job hunters.
Last week, the Bank of Japan said it would keep interest rates at an ultra-low zero to 0.1 percent with the nation's moribund economy "expected to return to a moderate recovery path as the pace of recovery in overseas economies picks up."
It also said reconstruction-related spending would help power the world's third-largest economy following the March 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.
However the central bank warned that "there remains a high degree of uncertainty about the global economy, including the prospects for the European debt problem" and the speed of a US economic recovery.
Japan's national debt also remains a key concern, with Fitch cutting the country's sovereign credit rating this month, and warning of another possible downgrade if Tokyo does not hasten a bid to shrink its staggering liabilities.
Tokyo's debt stands at more than twice its gross domestic product -- the highest ratio among industrialised nations.