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The number of people who saw their informal job offers canceled after graduating from universities or high schools this spring stood at 174 as of the end of August, a labor ministry survey showed Tuesday.

The latest figure is about five times the year-before level and the highest since 598 when new graduates faced job offer cancellations following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

According to the ministry survey, the coronavirus epidemic was blamed for job offer cancellations for 104 of the 174 graduates. Meanwhile, 89 of the 174 have secured new jobs.

About half of the cancellation cases were observed in either daily living-related services and the entertainment sector, including tourism businesses, or the wholesale and retail sector.

By region, the Kanto region in eastern Japan saw 84 of the cases, followed by the Kyushu region, with 39, and the Tohoku northeastern region, with 15.

The survey also showed that 1,210 graduates saw their job enrollments postponed. No such postponement was reported in the previous year. The epidemic was said to have caused all but two of the 1,210 postponement cases.

The labor ministry will continue to encourage companies to avoid canceling job offers, a ministry official said.

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