Nearly a quarter of major firms in Japan that have set hiring plans for fiscal 2017 intend to recruit more new graduates than in fiscal 2016, but the percentage fell short of the previous year's figure, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

Of the 110 companies surveyed from Feb. 23 to March 22, 20 of the 83 firms with recruitment plans, or 24 percent, said they will increase hiring of new graduates. In last year's survey on recruitment for fiscal 2016, which starts Friday, the level was 37 percent.

The latest survey suggests big companies are not too keen on new hires amid an increasingly severe business environment, marked by a slowdown in the Chinese economy, a stronger yen, weak Japanese stocks and falling crude oil prices.