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The number of small firms in Japan facing labor shortages has declined rapidly as the new coronavirus crisis helped scale back business operations, a survey revealed Monday.

The survey conducted by the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry in July to August showed that 36.4 percent of responding companies were short on labor, down from 60.5 percent in the previous survey, conducted in February to March.

The latest figure was the lowest since the survey started in 2015, with demand for manpower in the accommodation and restaurant sector dropping sharply amid the epidemic.

By industry, 32.4 percent of accommodation facility and restaurant operators faced labor shortages in July to August, down from 70.3 percent. The proportion stood at 41.4 percent in the transportation sector, down from 71.5 percent, and at 24.3 percent at manufacturers, down from 51.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the nursing service industry saw its proportion remain high, at 66.0 percent, although the figure was down from 70.2 percent.

By prefecture, Hokkaido marked the highest figure, with 53.1 percent of companies in the prefecture experiencing labor shortages.

The survey covered 6,007 companies across Japan, and 2,939 of them, or 48.9 percent, gave valid responses.

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