Japan's government says the nation's unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in December.
The seasonally adjusted figure is better than Kyodo news agency's average market forecast of 5.1 percent and suggests that the labor market may be starting to benefit from improving corporate profits.
The result marks the first time the unemployment rate has dropped below the 5 percent level in 10 months.
The government on Friday also says in a separate report that consumer prices declined for the 22nd straight month. The key consumer price index fell 0.4 percent as deflation continued to weigh on the economy.