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Welfare benefit applications submitted in Japan in April increased 24.8 percent from a year before to 21,486, exceeding 20,000 for the second consecutive month, preliminary data showed Wednesday.

The welfare ministry said that changes in employment conditions following temporary suspensions of businesses may have contributed to the spike in welfare applications. Prefectures across Japan urged businesses to close temporarily after the central government declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 epidemic in some areas in early April.

The ministry also predicted that the number of applications will rise even further.

The number of households receiving aid for the first time in April stood at 19,362, up 14.8 percent. It is the first time since March 2017 that the figure has exceeded 19,000.

The overall number of welfare-receiving households stood at 1,634,584, down 617 from March.

Excluding households for which welfare payments were suspended, the number of households on welfare with only elderly members aged 65 or older and those with only such elderly members and children under 18 numbered 906,273, accounting for over half of all households on public aid.

The number of recipient households headed by disabled, injured or sick members stood at 402,740, while the number of families on welfare consisting only of single mothers and children totaled 76,678.

Other recipient households, including those led by unemployed people, came to 241,650, up 489 from the previous month.

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