* Jan jobless rate 4.9 pct, matching forecast
* Job-to-applications ratio rises to 0.61 vs forecast 0.58
* Household spending down 1.0 pct in Jan vs forecast -1.4 pct
Japan's jobless rate held steady in January and the availability of jobs improved to a two-year
high, adding to growing signs the economy is gradually recovering from stagnation.
Household spending marked its fourth straight month of annual declines in January but the pace of the fall slowed from December, suggesting that improvements in the job market may
nudge consumers to loosen their purse strings.
Still, any recovery in consumption is expected to be slow with a recent rise in commodity prices threatening to dampen business and household sentiment, some analysts say.
Improvements in the labour market and personal consumption are likely to continue, but there are risks to this scenario, said Atsushi Matsumoto, an economist at Mizuho Research
If oil prices continue to rise, this would damage Japan's economy and possibly harm consumption. We need to watch out for this, but it isn't my baseline scenario.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent in January, matching economists' median forecasts, data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications showed on Tuesday.
The jobs-to-applicants ratio rose to 0.61 from 0.58 in December, exceeding a median forecast of 0.58 and the highest reading since January 2009.
Household spending fell 1.0 percent in January from a year earlier, less than a median market forecast for a 1.4 percent drop and December's 3.3 percent decline, government data showed.
Japan's economy shrank slightly in the final quarter of last year, hurt by the expiry of government incentives for car purchases and a slowdown in exports, but is widely expected to
resume growing in the current quarter as exports and industrial production pick up.
(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Writing by Leika Kihara; Editing by Edmund Klamann)