Companies across Japan continue to slash jobs, pushing unemployment to a record high and two major financial analysis agencies have lowered the country's long term credit rating.

Japan's unemployment rate rose to 5.4 percent in October, the third consecutive record high.

The government says the jobless rate for male workers has reached 5.8 percent as many executives and managers fall victim to job cuts.

In recent months, the nation's technology giants, services companies and transportation firms have unveiled drastic job reduction plans on the heels of weak earnings reports.

Japanese Labor Minister Chikara Sagakuchi tells reporters that the country must find ways to create new jobs across a broad range of sectors. He says "We would like to consider new methods such as job sharing." Sagakuchi adds that "currently there are few measures to prevent unemployment."

Among those slashing jobs is Japan's leading truck maker, Isuzu Motors. It says it will cut another 3,000 employees, bringing total layoffs to about 13,000 or one third of its staff. That announcement coincided with news that Isuzu had lost nearly $200 million in the last fiscal year.

Two influential credit rating agencies recently delivered more bad news to Japan.

Standard and Poor's and Fitch IBCA Duff & Phelps both cut their rating on Japanese long term government bonds by one notch.

S&P says that the Japanese government is moving slowly in dealing with the banking sector's mountain of bad debts and that the agricultural and construction industries have too much political influence.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says the downgrades were unavoidable. He says "Japan cannot expect credit ratings to rise after issuing such a large number of government bonds."

Mr. Koizumi has vowed to cap new government bond issues at about $250 billion for the fiscal year 2002.