The number of welfare recipients totaled 2,174,331 in March, up 5,166 from the previous month, surpassing a record reached a year earlier, the welfare ministry said Wednesday.

The number of households receiving welfare also hit a record of 1,622,458 in the month, up 3,773, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The number of households consisting of persons aged 65 or older who were receiving welfare came to 786,634, or about 49 percent of the total.

The number of "other households" that include persons who are able to work but are on welfare stood at 276,801, down 2,062 from the previous month.

As economic recovery efforts progress, the number of so-called "other households" and single-mother households receiving welfare has been declining, but a growing number of elderly recipients is pushing up the overall count.

"An increased number of people lost jobs in March, the end of a fiscal year. It is hard for elderly people to be employed," a ministry official said.