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The government on Saturday lifted a moratorium on corporate recruiting of high school students amid a near-record low ratio of job offers to job seekers, opening the way for employers to start a series of job exams and interviews.

At the end of July, the ratio of job offers to high-school job seekers came to a near-record low of 0.64 amid a sluggish economy, meaning that businesses offered only 64 jobs for every 100 job seekers, according to the Labor Ministry.

More specifically, firms offered only 163,000 jobs to 256,000 teenage job seekers who will graduate from high school in March, the ministry said.

The number of such job offers was down 1.4 percent from a year before, although the ratio itself signified an improvement from the previous year’s record low of 0.62, it said.

For example, major supermarket operator Ito-Yokado Co. plans to hire 30 high school graduates, about 10 percent of the corresponding number last year.

Ito-Yokado officials blamed the sharp cutback on the absence of plans to open new retail outlets amid flagging personal consumption. The company on Saturday had 51 applicants take examinations at its headquarters in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. The 51 applicants were screened beforehand on the basis of school recommendations.

By district, businesses in Tokyo, Yokohama and the Tokai region offered more than one job opening for every job seeker.

But there were only two to three job openings for every 10 job seekers in Hokkaido, Kyushu and the Tohoku district, it said.

The ministry has marshaled 1,500 officials to take charge of facilitating graduate employment in a bid to help ease the severe job situation, the ministry added.

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