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Japanese Unemployment Returns to Post-War High

Japan's jobless rate for March jumped back to 5.4 percent from February's 5.2 percent. The latest rate, slightly higher than expected, is just below the record high hit in January.

Labor Minister Chikara Sakaguchi notes that the situation is especially severe for those looking to enter the workforce for the first time. He told reporters that the number of jobs being offered to those just graduating from high school or college is decreasing.

The world's largest consumer electronics maker has disappointed investors by missing its earnings targets and issuing a bearish outlook. Sony on Thursday announced profits at below $960 million. The company had been expected to make $1.5 billion.

Sony President Nobuyuki Idei said the company won't delay in making structural reforms. Mr. Idei said that Sony's 20th century business model will not generate profits in the 21st century. He adds that the company is in a transition period. Sony's stock on Friday in Tokyo had difficulty attracting buyers after plunging to a 15-year low.

There's been a job change at the top of Honda Motors. Japan's second largest automaker is appointing senior managing director Takeo Fukui as its new president. He will replace Hiroyuki Yoshino in June. The change comes as the company faces a slowdown in the domestic and U.S. auto markets. While Honda's market share has been growing in North America, its domestic sales have fallen almost 9 percent this year.

One of Honda's competitors, Hiroshima-based Mazda, on Friday, announced that its fiscal year 2003 sales show a sharp increase in both profit and revenue compared to the year before. Mazda President Lewis Booth predicted that the company's operating profits for fiscal 2004 would be the best the automaker has seen in a decade. Analysts say Mazda needs to continue to increase sales with more products to improve its profit margin.