• Kyodo News

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The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry launched a first-of-its-kind bus tour Wednesday to help a group of job seekers learn about small and medium-size companies in various parts of the country.

The group of unemployed men and women, ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s, boarded the bus at Tokyo Station to take the tour intended to help their job-hunting activities.

During the three-day trip, participants will visit seven companies in Chiba Prefecture operating in various industries.

They will learn about the companies’ work and tour their facilities, and will also be able to submit papers to introduce themselves.

METI will cover the bus fees and lodging for the trip, while the participants will pay for their own meals.

“We want to make this tour an opportunity to connect job seekers with unique small and medium-size companies whose information is hard to obtain at job-placement centers or on the Internet,” said a METI employee in charge of organizing the tour.

METI plans to hold about 100 such tours across Japan in fiscal 2009 through the end of next March, and anticipates about 3,000 participants.

The labor market is rapidly deteriorating amid the economic downturn, with layoffs increasing among regular and nonregular workers.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate hit 4.4 percent in February.

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