Over 97 percent of new university graduates in Japan found jobs this spring, up 1.5 points from the previous year for the first rise in three years, reflecting a labor shortage as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Friday.

A total of 97.3 percent of graduates who sought jobs were employed as of April 1, the third highest figure on record since 1997, when the government started collecting data, according to the labor and education ministries.

University students and other job seekers head into a venue holding a joint company job fair at Tokyo Big Sight in March 2022. (Kyodo)

"On the back of workforce shortages, companies' job offers are strong, with some appearing more willing to hire than before the coronavirus pandemic," said an official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The academic and business year starts in April for most educational institutions and companies in Japan.

The ministry said job offers are recovering in the tourism and air travel sectors, which were among the industries severely hit by the pandemic.

The survey covered graduates at a total of 62 public and private universities. The employment rate rose 1.7 points to 97.1 percent for social sciences and liberal arts students and 0.7 point to 98.1 percent for those with scientific degrees.

By area, the ratio was highest in the western Japan region comprising the Chugoku and Shikoku areas at 98.6 percent, a gain of 6.4 points, followed by 98.4 percent in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo, a rise of 1.7 points.

The region comprising Hokkaido and the Tohoku area of northeastern Japan saw the lowest percentage at 94.8 percent, but it was up 1.4 points from the previous year.

The employment rate for graduates of junior colleges rose 0.3 point to 98.1 percent. For technical school graduates, it gained 1.0 point to 95.7 percent.

The survey also found that 14.2 percent of the year's 137,843 high school graduates looked for jobs, down 0.6 point from the previous year, with 98.0 percent successful, up 0.1 point.

An education ministry official said more high school graduates decided to pursue further studies due to a support program offering grant-type scholarships and reduction or exemption of tuition fees for those in financial difficulties that started in fiscal 2020.