Japan's spending is up - will more daylight help too?

Marking the biggest year-on-year increase in 18 months, Japanese workers spent 2.6 percent more in January than in the same month of last year, the government said Friday.

Recent efforts by the government to jump-start the nation's faltering economy through enlarged fiscal spending are buoying incomes, which increases spending, said an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Consumption got a boost from increased public-works spending, which helped to raise incomes of people in construction-related industries, said the agency official. In January, spending on furniture and household items surged 23.1 percent from January 1998.

Many Japanese companies are still struggling to ride out the country's worst recession since World War II by slashing capital spending as well as payrolls.

A government panel now says it has another answer for economy: daylight saving time.

In a recent report, a panel said Japan could boost domestic spending by $5.3 billion a year just by giving folks an extra hour of summer sunlight. The estimate is based on the assumption that people would use more daylight to play sports, go out for dinner, and spend more on fun.

But labor unions say changing the clocks would force workers to stay at the office even longer, since employees fear irking their bosses - and colleagues - by leaving while it is still light out.

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