1) The Japanese government says the unemployment rate for January stood at a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent. That’s down 0.3 percentage points from the previous month, and is the lowest since April 1993.
More than 65 million people had jobs, up 920,000 from a year earlier. Employment has been expanding for more than 5 years.
2) Major food and beverage makers across Japan are to raise prices due to the higher costs of labor and raw materials.
Breweries are hiking prices of bottled and draft beer. They say driver shortages and other factors are making distribution more costly, so bottled beer will go up by around 10 percent.
Prices of domestic and imported wines will also increase by 3 to 6 percent, due to the rising costs of grapes.
Consumers in Japan can expect to pay more for rice, frozen items and dairy products.
3) A Japanese university will set up a research institute to study legal issues related to self-driving cars and make recommendations to the government.
The Japanese government is aiming to put self-driving technology into practical use by around 2020. It envisions making use of level 3 of the 5-degree scale of autonomous driving. At that level, driving is basically fully automated except in emergencies.
4) China has warned the United States not to resort to protectionism, after President Donald Trump announced plans to impose heavy tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Friday that the steel and aluminum industries are facing global challenges and that countries should cooperate to tackle them.
Hua suggested that no country should resort to unilateral trade restrictions to protect its own interests.
5) The Reuters news agency says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his late father, Kim Jong Il, obtained fake Brazilian passports under false names in the 1990s.
The younger Kim is known to have made multiple secret visits to Japan around 1991, when he was a child, using a fake passport. He is also known to have traveled to Japan using a fake Brazilian passport in May of 1991.
6) A senior official of Japan’s Finance Ministry says it will look into allegations of altering internal documents on the sale of state-owned land to a private school operator.
The land in Osaka Prefecture was sold to Moritomo Gakuen in June 2016 for about 7.5 million dollars less than its market value.
The ministry disclosed its internal documents related to the sale after the issue was made public in February last year and taken up at the Diet.
But media say the documents were not those created when a local branch of the ministry concluded a contract for the sale.
7) Russian figure skater Alina Zagitova, who took gold in women’s singles figure skating in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, says she hankers after an Akita dog. The breed originates from the prefecture of the same name in northern Japan.
8) Japan’s Meteorological Agency says a volcano in the country’s southwest appears to have erupted.
The agency says volcanic tremors began on Mount Shinmoe in the Kirishima mountain range, bordering Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, at around 8:15 AM Thursday, Japan time.
Volcanic ash was reported falling at the foot of the mountain at around 11:00 AM. Shinmoe last erupted in October.
9) A letter that was opened at a US military base near Washington caused 11 people to fall ill.
The US Marine Corps says the incident happened at a base in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. 3 of the sick were taken to a hospital.
10) —Statistics show pigs are hogging the market in Europe as the largest livestock category and outnumber people in Denmark by more than two-to-one.
European statistical agency Eurostat said Thursday that with a population of about 150 million in the European Union, pigs far outnumber cattle and other bovines, the second-largest livestock category with 89 million head.
11) —A New York economic development agency report meant to show the state’s growth was illustrated with an 8-year-old photo showing construction craneas in South Africa.
The Associated Press discovered the photo in this month’s report from Empire State Development.
12) KFC says about 470 of the fried chicken chain’s 900 U.K. restaurants remained closed Tuesday because of a chicken shortage. The company says the disruption started last week, when it changed its delivery provider to DHL.