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Japan Feb wages steady, winter bonuses up for 1st time in 5 yrs

TOKYO, April 1 (Reuters) - Japanese wage earners' total cash earnings were unchanged in February from a year earlier and, in a possible sign of thaw in sluggish growth in salaries, winter bonuses rose for the first time in five years, data showed on Tuesday. Overtime pay, a barometer of strength in corporate activity, rose 3.4 percent from a year ago in February, up for an 11th straight month although the increase was slower than January's 4.8 percent rise, the figures from the labour ministry showed. Year-end bonuses paid between November and January rose 0.3 percent from a year earlier, the first rise since a 1.0 percent gain in 2008. In 2012, bonuses fell 1.5 percent. But regular pay slipped an annual 0.3 percent in February, falling for a 21st straight month after a 0.2 percent slip the previous month. Real wages, which take into account consumer inflation, dropped an annual 1.9 percent in February, down for a eighth straight month. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government have been publicly pressuring companies to raise wages, as that is seen as a crucial factor to complement massive monetary and fiscal stimulus to try to pull the economy out of deflation. In March, some big Japanese companies such as Toyota Motor Corp offered the most generous pay raises in years, although there are concerns an increase in the sales tax rate from April could still crimp spending power.

The following table shows preliminary data for monthly incomes and numbers of workers in January:

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FEB JAN Payments (yen) yr/yr change (pct) Total cash earnings 262,308 yen 0.0 -0.2 Monthly wage 259,413 yen 0.0 +0.1* -Regular pay 240,097 yen -0.3 -0.2* -Overtime pay 19,316 yen +3.4 +4.8* -Special payments 2,895 yen -1.5 -9.6* ----------------------------------------------------------------

Number of workers (million)

Overall 46.145 mln +1.1 +1.2* -general employees 32.533 mln +0.9 +0.6* -part-time employees 13.611 mln +1.7 +2.7* ---------------------------------------------------------------- *denotes a revision from preliminary data.

The ministry defines "workers" as 1) those who are employed for more than one month at a firm that employs more than five people, or 2) those who are employed on a daily basis or have less than a one-month contract but had worked more than 18 days during the two months before the survey was conducted at a firm that employs more than five people. To view the full tables, see the labour ministry's website at: http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/database/db-l/index.html

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by John Mair)