The spread of the Coronavirus and the subsequent nationwide lockdown has had a disastrous impact on the state of employment. The latest weekly unemployment rate spiked to 23.4%, more than a threefold jump over mid-March. The urban unemployment rate for the week ended April 5 stood at a staggering 30.93%, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) weekly tracker survey.

The unemployment rate was 6.7% in mid-March and 8.4% in the week of March 22, before the country went under lockdown to fight the spread of the new Coronavirus. The unemployment rate had been rising steadily since January but started to spike after the lockdown. For the month of March, CMIE data shows the unemployment rate was at 8.7%. This is the highest unemployment rate in 43 months, or since September 2016, says CMIE.

"Labour statistics for March 2020 are worrisome. And, those for the past two weeks are much worse. In March 2020, the labour participation rate fell to an all-time low, the unemployment rate shot up sharply and the employment rate fell to its all-time low,” wrote Mahesh Vyas, director, CMIE, in a blog on the organisation’s website. The employment rate fell to an all-time low of 38.2% in March, Vyas added.

CMIE also said that the labour participation rate (LPR), which consists of all employed persons and those who are unemployed and are actively looking for jobs, was 41.9% in March, compared to 42.6% in February and 42.7% in March last year.

Vyas says that this is the first time that the LPR has fallen below 42%, as a result of a 9 million fall in the labour force, from 443 million in January 2020 to 434 million in March 2020.

“The components of this fall is telling of the times,” says Vyas.

CMIE said that its survey operations were disrupted in the last week of March due to the lockdown; therefore, the data collected for the month was smaller than the usual numbers. The sample size for March was 83,929 observations, compared to an average sample of 117,382 individuals of more than 14 years of age, in the preceding six months, Vyas noted. The survey was suspended in the last week of March, but the agency continued to report observations till March 25th, after which it started conducting telephonic interviews. For the week, the organisation collected 9,429 observations.

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