© Reuters. A worker cycles near a factory at the Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki
© Reuters. A worker cycles near a factory at the Keihin industrial zone in Kawasaki

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s factory output probably grew for a fifth straight month in October and retail sales likely rebounded for the first time in eight months, a Reuters poll showed on Friday, offering further signs that the economy is gradually recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, a recent sharp jump in coronavirus cases is clouding the outlook, and expected softness in the job market and declining housing starts indicate a weakening of household purchasing power amid the health crisis.

“Although the economy is picking up, it remains way below the pre-pandemic level,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. “As sales declines are prolonged, companies are laying off workers.”

Trade ministry data out Monday is expected to show industrial output rose 2.1% month-on-month in October, up for the fifth straight month but slowing from the prior month’s 3.9% rise, the poll of 17 economists showed.

Separate data is likely to show retail sales jumped 6.4% year-on-year in October, the first gain in eight months and reversing from the prior month’s 8.7% drop, the poll found.

Internal affairs ministry data is expected to show the seasonally adjusted jobless rate edged up to 3.1% in October from the previous month’s 3.0%, in a worrying sign for job losses caused by the pandemic, the poll found.

Labour ministry data is likely to show the jobs-to-applicants ratio held steady at 1.03 in October, meaning one job was available per job-seeker, the lowest level since December 2013.

Factory output and retail sales data will both be released at 8:50 a.m. Monday (2350 GMT Sunday), followed by the housing starts report at 2 p.m. (0500 GMT). The job data will be out at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday (2330 GMT Monday).

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