A record-high 97.3 percent of university graduates in Japan were employed as of the beginning of the fiscal year on April 1, according to government data released Friday, reflecting companies' increasing appetite for recruitment.

The employment rate of job-seeking university graduates rose 0.6 percentage points from the year before, marking the fifth consecutive annual increase and eclipsing the previous record of 96.9 percent in 2008, according to an annual survey conducted by the education and labor ministries since 1997.

The figures exclude those who decided to repeat another year after failing to get jobs or those continuing their studies at graduate schools. Seventy-two percent of all university graduates entered employment.

The positive trend was further reinforced by a 97.7 percent employment rate for fresh high school graduates who sought jobs, up 0.2 percentage points from the year before for the sixth straight year of increase, according to a separate education ministry survey.

While many firms began job interviews for senior university students from August, compared with April the previous year, the later start had no direct impact on the employment rate, an education ministry official in charge of the survey said.

However, with some 19,000 fresh university graduates remaining jobless as of April this year, the ministries said they plan to help them secure jobs.

The survey on university graduates was conducted at 62 selected public and private universities in Japan.

Among high school graduates, 191,900 sought jobs and 187,500 of them successfully landed jobs as recruitment in the manufacturing and construction sectors increased.

By area, the employment rate of high school graduates was highest in Toyama Prefecture at 99.95 percent and lowest in Okinawa Prefecture at 87.2 percent.

In Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, where reconstruction efforts are underway after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the employment rates all exceeded 99 percent.