Small business owners and individuals across Japan are increasingly relying on loans to survive the coronavirus pandemic. They continued to borrow more in December, pushing the amount owed to banks nationwide to a record high.
A Bank of Japan report says outstanding debts last month averaged more than 577 trillion yen, or about 5.5 trillion dollars.
That's the highest amount owed since 2000, when comparable data became available. The figure has climbed each month since October.
Big corporations appear to be borrowing less. But smaller ventures and individual operators are still struggling.
And there's likely to be more pain ahead. The BOJ is warning that the state of emergency in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures could put another dent in the economy.