About half of Japan’s 150 leading companies plan to hire more new graduates in spring 2002 than they did this spring, according to a Kyodo News poll.

The survey found that 49 percent, or 73 firms, plan to add more graduates from universities and other schools, which would mark the second consecutive year of expanded hiring at major companies.

The increase reflects strong demand for information technology-related engineers as well as positive reactions to sharp downsizing in recent years, the survey showed.

The survey found that 59 companies will keep recruiting levels similar to those of the current year, and 11 others will reduce hiring. Seven said they have yet to decide on their recruiting plans for next spring.

While the findings confirm a trend of increased hiring at leading firms, the plans may be scaled back if economies overseas and in Japan slow further.

The poll also found that 94 of 120 companies responding to a question about workforces said they cut the number of staff on regular payrolls from a year earlier. Only 26 reported increases.

In a bid to limit overall staff size, numerous companies have chosen to keep the number of new recruits below the number of retiring employees, according to the survey.

Many of the respondents that said they would increase hiring were IT-related manufacturers, software developers and telecom companies. Trading houses, steelmakers and chemical firms are gradually increasing the number of people they plan to take on, the poll showed.

Major retailers and financial institutions are cutting back on recruiting, according to the poll.

NTT East Corp. alone declared it will not hire anybody next spring, just as it refrained from hiring this spring.

The poll also showed a growing tendency among major companies to advance the timing of recruit selection and finalization to before the end of April, when a new semester for fourth-year students at universities and other schools begins.

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