Nearly 10,000 people have lost their jobs in Japan since February with the economic slump brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the labor ministry said Thursday, raising concerns over more job losses.
Layoffs and termination of contracts, especially in small and midsize businesses, surged from April when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a national state of emergency, grinding businesses to a halt and prompting people to stay home.
By Wednesday, 9,569 jobs had been lost, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare data. Job losses stood at 282 in February and 835 in March. For April, the country saw 2,654 jobs disappear, and the figure for May currently stands at 5,798.
"We fear more jobs may be lost," a senior labor ministry official said.
Among other measures, the government has attempted to encourage businesses to retain employees by providing subsidies to help shoulder part of the leave allowance for staff who are temporarily out of work.
The pandemic has led the subsidy for such companies to be raised for a limited period, using an existing subsidy program for companies struggling due to the impact of natural disasters or a slump in the economy.
Still, the state of emergency has worsened the employment situation, especially for hard-hit small and midsize companies.
Employees who were most affected worked in the tourism sector, such as at hotels and inns, tour bus companies and taxi services, as well as in the food services industry that complied with local authorities' stay-at-home requests.
"We must take the necessary measures as we keep a close eye on the employment situation," labor minister Katsunobu Kato said at a parliamentary committee session.
Up to 3.01 million jobs in Japan could go in the year through next March in the worst-case scenario, according to calculations by the Chubu Region Institute for Social and Economic Research based in Nagoya, central Japan.
Experts say the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic may exceed that of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which led to about 950,000 people losing their jobs in Japan in fiscal 2009.