The wallets of Japanese workers grew fat with cash in February as wages grew by the most in seven months. Must be those negative rates or somethin’.

Maybe not. But average monthly cash earnings did grow by 0.9 per cent month-on-month in February, the most since a gain of as much last July, and ahead of economists expectations for a 0.2 per cent advance.

Disappointingly, January’s growth was revised lower to zero from 0.4 per cent, according to data from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

It was a similar story for the year-on-year rate, which came in at 0.4 per cent in February, up from zero in January but only because the initial figure of 0.4 per cent had been revised lower. This was the best result since October’s 0.4 per cent year-on-year gain.

Wage growth is a critical factor in Japan’s economic reform plan. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, last year called for an increase in the country’s minimum wage in an effort to spur domestic consumption, although this would affect around 2m workers so likely to have only a modest effect overall.

Ahead of this morning’s data release, Barcalys analysts noted that major companies on March 16 announced their response to the requests of labour unions during the annual spring negotiations. The analysts said:

Based on initial [Japan Trade Union Confederation] survey results released on 18 March, wages were set to increase 2.08% in FY16 (revised up to 2.10% in the second-round survey), well below the 2.43% hike for FY15 indicated at this time last year. Further surveys will be conducted in the weeks ahead, but we expect a similar undershoot in the official data to be released by the [Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare] around end-July (FY15 result: 2.38%).

Recent data showed that household spending in February rebounded by the most in six months, which may have been helped by that slight tick up in average wages. The unemployment rate is still hovering around multi-decade lows.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

Comments have not been enabled for this article.