But a recovery in China, where COVID-19 emerged late last year, and recoveries in some other Asian countries are helping Japan regain momentum.
Junichi Makino, analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities, noted that auto exports were recovering as global economies rebounded, especially in Europe. He said exports overall had recovered nearly to what it had been before the pandemic.
The ministry data showed transportation equipment in general, including vehicles, motorcycles and planes, was still declining, down 7% compared to a year ago.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who took office a month ago, left Sunday for Vietnam and Indonesia, where virus cases are relatively low, to drum up business and trade.
His predecessor, Shinzo Abe, had tried to sustain economic growth with his “Abenomics” package of programs based on zero interest rates and curtailing deflation.
Suga, also from the governing Liberal Democratic Party, is expected to continue those policies.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama