Japan consumer confidence at 4-year high on stocks, job market

Shoppers sample dried foodstuff at a stall at Tokyo's Sugamo district, an area popular with the Japanese elderly, in Tokyo, Japan, in this March 14, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese consumer confidence improved in November to its highest level in four years, lifted by surging stock prices and a robust job market, the Cabinet Office said on Monday.

The sentiment index for general households, which includes views on incomes and jobs, rose 0.4 point from the previous month to 44.9, up for a third straight month and marking the highest since September 2013.

The survey adds to upbeat signals surrounding consumer sentiment - service-sector business confidence reached a 3-1/2-year high last month. [nL3N1NF3HF]

Japan’s economy is enjoying its longest expansion in 16 years but private consumption slipped for the first time in seven quarters in July-September, highlighting the need for a tight job market to translate into higher salaries.

“Consumer spending has been picking up since last year but the pace of recovery lacks momentum compared with that of exports and firms’ production activity,” said Hidenobu Tokuda, a senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute.

“It needs wage increases to help to boost consumer spending,” he said.

In October, Japan’s unemployment rate held steady at a 23-year low of 2.8 percent and the availability of jobs reached the highest in almost 44 years.

But wages slipped after adjustment for inflation for the fourth straight month in September. The October data is due out on Friday. [nT9N1DU03C]

Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu