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Some 800,000 new high school and college graduates experienced their first day as regular workers at Friday’s start of the new fiscal year, with companies and public offices across Japan holding welcome ceremonies for them.

As of Feb. 1, 83 percent of college graduates received informal job offers, up 0.5 percentage point from a year earlier, while 82 percent of high school graduates received offers at the end of January, up 5 points, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The upturn apparently reflects the fact that companies, many seeing a recovery in their business, are increasing hiring before the expected exodus of retiring baby boomers in the coming few years.

But it is also estimated that 160,000 new graduates were unable to find jobs by the start of the new fiscal year.

According to government estimates, about 70 percent of junior high school graduates, some 50 percent of high school graduates and more than 30 percent of those who completed college leave their first jobs within three years of graduation.

At the same time, labor ministry data show that roughly 520,000 young people were neither seeking employment nor education or training. Cabinet Office statistics for 2002 released last month put the figure for such people, known as NEETs, at 850,000.

Top leaders at private corporations and government entities addressed the newcomers and spoke of what was expected of them.

Masayoshi Son, head of Softbank Corp., told new recruits to the Internet services provider that his company is built on daily challenges.

“What’s important is whether you can become colleagues who share these same aspirations,” he said.

Meanwhile, at Seibu Railway Co., which has been embroiled in a scandal involving dubious transactions of its stock, President Masao Ishibashi called on the new employees to feel a sense of crisis.

“We are currently facing a very difficult time, but I would like you to pave the way for future” of the company, he said.

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