• Kyodo

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An estimated 890,000 new recruits at companies, public offices and other organizations marked their first day at work on Monday, the first business day of the new fiscal year.

Job availability for graduates has continued to improve over the past several years, with 90.6 percent of those slated to graduate from universities before April having found jobs as of Feb. 1, while 94 percent of job-seeking high school seniors had found jobs as of the end of January, according to the labor ministry.

Labor shortages are particularly pronounced in the construction and distribution industries.

Welcome ceremonies were held at a number of companies in the morning, and new hires who began working for local governments in disaster-stricken towns vowed to contribute to reconstruction efforts.

In the town of Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, which was hit hard by a series of strong earthquakes in April last year, Mayor Hironori Nishimura asked 21 new employees to strive to rebuild the township. “Many of our residents are still not living normal lives. We want you to aim big to write a new history of the town of Mashiki.”

Masato Mizuta, 26, whose grandparents are living in temporary housing in the town, said, “I will do my best to realize tangible support while taking good care of the emotional needs of elderly people.”

In the Tohoku region, which was struck by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and afterward has had to deal with the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, new recruits were also aiming to help with the reconstruction of stricken towns.

Eight recruits started working for the municipal government of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture, where an evacuation order was lifted on Friday, excluding an area with an excessive level of radiation, following the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Six people joined the operator of the Sanriku railway line in neighboring Iwate Prefecture, whose train tracks were severed for several kilometers by the tsunami. Ryuta Furudate, an 18-year-old driver trainee from the town of Miyako, said, “I will work hard to become a driver who will be loved by local people, so I can repay those who helped us at the time of the disaster.”

In Osaka, Panasonic Corp. President Kazuhiro Tsuga encouraged the group’s 780 new employees to try to do new things, saying at a welcoming ceremony that it was impossible to survive in a changing society with only a conventional way of thinking.

Tatsuhiro Kishi, a new employee who did research in school on how to make people laugh with robots, said in his remarks at the ceremony, “I want to create robots that can help people’s lives and transform society.”

In Tokyo, Toshihiro Yamamoto, president of advertising agency Dentsu Inc., expressed regret at a closed-door welcoming ceremony over the suicide of one of its employees whose cause of death from overwork prompted an outcry over the country’s culture of long work hours.

“We feel very sorry for making you and your family members worry so much before joining our company,” the president told new recruits in his remarks at the ceremony, according to the company.

A new Dentsu employee in his 20s said, “I already understand the toughness of the job and (Dentsu’s) traditionally tough mentorship.” He said he wanted to learn his job fast and become involved in a large project.

Cash-strapped nuclear and electronics conglomerate Toshiba Corp. held off on hiring new graduates this year.

Battered by massive losses at its U.S. nuclear business Westinghouse, Toshiba split off its prized memory chip business into a separate unit on Saturday to sell a majority stake in the new company to help fund its turnaround plan.

Travel agency Tellmeclub, which abruptly filed for bankruptcy late last month and left many customers in the lurch, withdrew its job offers to around 50 graduates at the last minute.

As of Thursday, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry had received inquiries from 14 people whose job offers were canceled by the agency.

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