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Japan's Unemployment Rate Dips

Japan's jobless rate fell slightly in March from February. The Public Management Ministry says the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5 percent, down two-tenths of a percent from the previous month.

Ministry officials say, while the country's employment situation is improving, the job market for young workers remains tough.

A delegation of American government and academic experts has been meeting with Japanese officials, media and housewives to reassure them that U.S. beef is safe to eat.

It is highly anticipated that Japanese government officials, in the next several months, will re-open the market to American beef. The imports were banned in December 2003 after a single case of mad cow disease was reported in the United States. The animal had been brought in from Canada.

The head of the U.S. delegation, Agriculture Department Undersecretary Chuck Lambert, says the American beef industry is optimistic that, despite the long hiatus, it will be able to regain its market share in Japan.

"We're going to have to work at it. We understand that but we're confident that we can compete and that we will be very competitive in the market," he said. "We just need that [Japanese] government decision that says you can now pitch your product in the marketplace and allow Japanese consumers to make their decisions."

Japan, before the beef ban, was America's second largest export market for beef, totaling $1.5 billion annually.

Japanese automaker Honda reports its net profit in the fourth quarter for last year rose 27 percent to about $900 million. It says sales climbed 10.5 percent compared to a year earlier. But analysts are expressing disappointment with the numbers saying Honda's results are slightly below what they forecast.

Honda's competitor Nissan says its consolidated net profit rose two percent on the year to more than five billions dollar in the fiscal year that ended March 31. The automaker says its global sales grew 11 percent to a record 3.4 million units.

Japan's top automaker, Toyota, says it will begin to build some cars in Russia. The plant in St. Petersburg will be the first in the country for a Japanese vehicle manufacturer.

The factory will be partly capitalized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the first sedans are scheduled to roll off the assembly line in December 2007.