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Japan Posts First Gain in Regular Workers Since 1997


More Japanese have regular jobs for the first time in seven years, although monthly pay has continued to drop. And Japan's cell phone giant is bringing out cheaper third-generation handsets hoping to gain in the 3-G market. The number of regular workers in Japan increased last year, the first annual gain since 1997.

Japan's Labor Ministry says an average of 42.8 million workers were on monthly payrolls in 2004, an increase of four-tenths of a percent from the previous year. But the number of permanent employees fell 1.1 percent last year, the seventh straight annual drop. Average monthly pay also fell for the fourth year in a row.

Japan's largest cell phone operator is learning that having complex and costly handsets is not necessarily a competitive advantage. NTT DoCoMo this month will release third generation phones priced about 30 percent below existing models.

DoCoMo product department general managing director Kiyohito Nagata says the new models will have fewer features than its top 3-G phones. Mr. Nagata says the company hopes to persuade its existing customers who use second-generation handsets to move up to 3-G, which have videophone capabilities and music players.

DoCoMo's rival KDDI has the lead in the third-generation market, with 90 percent of its subscribers using 3-G. DoCoMo has the most overall subscribers - 48 million - but less than 20 percent have signed up for 3-G service.

Nissan Motor is recalling more than 300,000 vehicles because of faulty parts. The Japanese automaker says the recall involves eight models made between 2002 and May of last year.

Nissan says the vehicles have problems with a computer program that controls engine operations and defects in the exhaust manifold and in muffler materials.

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