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SENDAI (Kyodo) Labor offices in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures have been swamped with a combined 8,000 inquiries about labor issues, including dismissals and special paid leave, since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the offices said Wednesday.

The number is expected to grow because numerous businesses in coastal areas in the three prefectures suffered catastrophic damage, labor officials said.

It is also estimated that tens of thousands of workers, mainly in Fukushima Prefecture, have left their workplaces to escape the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, raising the need for the government to immediately address labor issues.

“We receive more than 200 inquiries a day,” said Toshiaki Sakashita, a senior official at the job placement office in Sendai. “I have no precedent for this sort of situation.”

It is also reported that 144 new graduates face cancellations of job offers or postponed job entry in these areas prior to the start of the new business year Friday, the labor offices said.

Local business groups have jointly asked the central government for special measures to help companies operate, including moratoriums on repayments of debt and operating funds.

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