Employment prospects for students graduating in spring 2001 have improved for the first time in three years, thanks to a mild recovery in the economy, according to a survey by Kyodo News.

Of 150 major companies surveyed, 79, or 52.7 percent, said they will increase hiring of new graduates this spring, while 40 companies, or 26.7 percent, plan to reduce hiring or not hire at all.

The companies’ employment plans differed according to the business climate in their respective industries.

The results of the May 20 survey were based on interviews with representatives of major listed and unlisted companies in each industry and released Saturday.

Companies in the electrical machinery sector, particularly those related to information technology, are likely to aggressively hire new graduates, reflecting plans for expansion.

Most of those in the automobile sector and the material products sector, such as steel and chemicals, plan to increase hiring moderately.

Securities firms are also boosting hiring considerably in view of the briskness of the stock market.

On the other hand, companies in the power, gas and the transportation sectors are reducing hiring as they face tougher competition resulting from deregulation.

Firms in the banking and construction sectors, struggling with the negative legacy of the speculative bubble economy of the late 1980s, plan reductions.

Job prospects for university graduates will be better next year than this year, but will continue to be severe for high school graduates.

Among those increasing hiring are Toshiba Corp., IBM Japan Ltd. and NTT Communications Corp.

Toshiba said it plans to take on more employees to strengthen strategic areas related to information technology and digital information equipment, while IBM Japan was pointing to electronic commerce, and NTT Communications to Internet-related business.

Nissan Motor Co. is planning to hire for its product development section, and Nintendo Co. for its technology section.

Companies planning to cut hiring are mostly those in the midst of restructuring. They include Snow Brand Milk Products Co., which said it will hire temporary staff to cut costs, and Japan Tobacco Inc., which talked of improving efficiency in noncore business areas.

Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp. and Daimaru Inc. plan no hiring.