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Over 80,000 people have been dismissed or seen their employment contracts terminated rather than renewed in Japan for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic since it began, the labor ministry said Thursday.

Job insecurity is likely to spread further, with cases of the disease soaring across the nation. The government was set to declare a fresh state of emergency for Tokyo and its three neighboring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa the same day.

The number of people who were dismissed or saw their contracts not renewed, including those who had expected that to be the case, reached 80,121 as of Wednesday, up 320 from the previous day, the ministry said.

As of Dec. 25 last year, the manufacturing industry had seen the highest number of people facing such circumstances, at 16,717, followed by the restaurant industry with 11,021 and the retail industry with 10,399. The totals disclosed also included those who had already found new employment.

Among Japan's 47 prefectures, Tokyo ranked top with 19,318 losing work, followed by Osaka with 6,657 and Aichi with 4,696.

The actual number dealing with job losses is believed to be even higher, as the ministry has not yet been able to fully assess the whole situation.

Since February last year, the ministry has been counting the number of such people affected through labor bureaus and Hello Work job placement offices nationwide.

The number exceeded 10,000 in May, after the government declared a state of emergency for the whole country in April, and reached 50,000 in August.

The pace of increase began slowing in October but reaccelerated toward year-end as novel coronavirus cases surged.

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