The number of Japanese in their 20s who committed suicide after failing to find a job rose by a quarter in 2010, although overall suicides fell to a nine-year low.

Police figures released on Thursday showed 153 people aged 20-29 took their own lives in 2010 because of a failure to find work, with the age group accounting for more than a third of such suicides.

Japan's economic slump in the wake of the global financial crisis three years ago has been tough on young people looking to enter the work force, with some firms opting to hire more experienced workers instead of new graduates.

Among university students graduating last year, 60 percent found jobs compared with 68 percent the year before.

Japan's total suicides fell 3.5 percent in 2010 to below 32,000 for the first time in nine years, though it still has the highest suicide rate among industrial nations at 24.9 per 100,000 people.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a blog entry that the government aims to reduce the number to below 30,000 in 2011. It has designated March as a month to focus on suicide prevention. (Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Joseph Radford)