Companies had more employees than they needed in May but are willing to hire mid-career prospects and graduates fresh out of high school or college for the current business year, according to a survey released Monday by the health ministry.

In its quarterly survey of labor trends for May, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said the diffusion index of corporate labor force assessments worsened to minus 6 from minus 4 in the previous survey taken in February.

The worst situations were in the construction and manufacturing sectors, where the index for construction labor fell to minus 15 from minus 10 and the index for manufacturing labor fell to minus 20 from minus 10.

The diffusion index is calculated by subtracting the percentage of companies who believe they have too many workers from those who say they do not. The minus reading shows that the majority of companies feel they are overstaffed.

The survey also shows that 23 percent of the companies polled made adjustments by cutting overtime work and transferring workers in the January-March period, exceeding the 21 percent recorded in the October-December quarter.

Looking ahead, 24 percent of the companies said they expect to take more labor-adjustment measures in the April-June quarter, while 22 percent said they would do so in July-September, the survey said.

The latest survey was conducted May 1 by sending questionnaires to 5,342 firms that employ 30 workers or more. Of that group, 2,818 companies, or 53 percent, replied.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of the responding companies said they planned to hire more mid-career personnel, up 5 percentage points from the previous year. In addition, more companies are willing to hire graduates fresh out of high school or college for fiscal 2001 than they were in fiscal 2000.

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