The number of applications for welfare payments in Japan in April jumped by 24.8 percent compared with the same period of last year due to worsening labor market conditions amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, government data showed Wednesday.

A total of 21,486 applications were filed, with the highest rate of increase since records became available from April 2013, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

"We believe the number of applications increased sharply because a large number of people struggled to make a living following the government's state of emergency declaration and subsequent requests (for businesses) to halt operations in April," a spokesperson said.

However, the actual number of people in need of assistance may be much higher as support groups have been approached by individuals whose applications were denied by welfare offices or who were told to inquire in other municipalities.

A total of 19,362 households in Japan began receiving welfare payments from April, up 14.8 percent from the same period a year earlier. By region, metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures were particularly affected.

As for the number of recipients, the figure fell to 2,059,536, down 7,124 people from March, according to the data.

The number of people receiving benefits typically drops in April when the new business year starts as recipients secure employment.

A total of 1,634,584 households across the country received welfare payments in April, down 617 compared with the previous month.

The number of households composed of people aged 65 and older who received benefits increased by 248 from March to a record 906,273.

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