NBS: Unemployment Rate Rises to 23.1% with 20.9m Jobless Nigerians

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By James Emejo in Abuja

The country’s unemployment rate worsened in the third quarter of 2018 (Q3, 2018), rising from 18.8 per cent in Q3 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018), the National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) labour report has shown.

According to the Labour Force Statistics – Volume I released on Wednesday, the total number of people classified as unemployed, which means they did nothing at all or worked for a few hours (under 20 hours a week) rose from 17.6 million in Q4 2017 to 20.9 million in Q3 2018.

The economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years) also increased from 111.1 million in Q3 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3 2018.

The labour force, which is the number of people who are able and willing to work rose to 90.5 million in Q3 2018 from 75.94 million in Q3 2015.

It was 80.66 million in Q3 2016 and 85.1million in Q3 2017, the NBS report stated.

According to the statistical agency, the total number of people in part-time employment (or underemployment) however, rose to 18.21 million in Q3 2018, from 13.20 million in Q3 2015, 11.19 million in Q3 2016 and 18.02 million in Q3 2017.

The total number of people in full-time employment (at least 40 hours a week) also increased from 51.1 million in Q3 2017 to 51.3 million in Q3 2018.

The NBS, however, explained: “Of the 20.9 million persons classified as unemployed as at Q3 2018, 11.1 million did some form of work but for too few hours a week (under 20 hours) to be officially classified as employed, while 9.7 million did absolutely nothing.

“Of the 9.7 million unemployed that did absolutely nothing as at Q3 2018, 90.1% of them or 8.77 million were reported to be unemployed and doing nothing because they were first time job seekers and have never worked before.

“On the other hand, 9.9 million or 0.9% of the 9.7 million that were unemployed and doing nothing at all reported they were unemployed and did nothing at all because they were previously employed but lost their jobs at some point in the past which is why they were unemployed,” the report said.

According to the NBS, “Of the 9.7 million that were unemployed and did nothing at all, 35.0% or 3.4 million have been unemployed and did nothing at all for less than a year; 17.2% or 1.6 million for a year, 15.7% or 1.5 million had been unemployed and did nothing for two years, and the remaining 32.1% or 3.1 million unemployed persons had been unemployed doing nothing for three and above years.”

It, however, pointed out that a rise in the unemployment rate is not entirely equivalent to an increase in job losses, adding: “Rather, an increase in unemployment can occur as a result of several reasons of which loss of an existing job is just one.”

A rise in unemployment, the NBS said, generally means the number of people searching for jobs has increased, “which can occur because people previously outside the labour for (e.g students, housewives etc) have decided to join the labour force and are now in search of jobs, or people previously working have lost their jobs and are now in search of jobs. Often, it is a combination of these two”.

Controversy had preceded the release of the unemployment statistics by the NBS.

The Statistician General of the Federation and Chief Executive, NBS, Dr. Yemi Kale, had refuted an online report that the presidency had asked him to doctor the country’s unemployment/underemployment data.

He had threatened to resign if he was asked to tinker with the data in order to favour the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government. The online report had alleged that President Muhammadu Buhari had during a recent meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) ordered Kale to change the high unemployment statistics and reflect the rising rate of employment in the agriculture sector.