Understanding the damning numbers on unemployment released by the National Bureau of Statistics

by Alexander O. Onukwue

The National Bureau of Statistics, on Monday evening, released the figures of the Unemployment status of Nigeria for the fourth quarter of 2016.

As the Nation grappled with the recession, the period between October and December of 2016 was not the most economically convenient months to navigate through for many Nigerians, with rising prices of food products, notably Rice. The scarcity of resources and food also reached the labour market in terms of scarcity of employment opportunities, as the following numbers from the Bureau will show:

1. 590,000 joined the economic active population from Q3 to Q4: According to the NBS,The economically active population or working age population (persons within ages 15 and 64) increased from 108.03 million to 108.59 million”. Compared to the previous quarter, it meant an increase of 0.5% and a 3.4% increase compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, which appears to match Nigeria’s average annual population growth figure of 3%.

2. About 480,000 persons joined the labour force from Q3 to Q4: As defined, the labour force are those persons who are willing to work, able to work and are actively seeking for work. In other words, “voluntary full-time housewives, underage children 14 and below, adults above 65, full-time students, those in active military service, physically challenged and incapacitated persons whose incapacitation prevents them from working” are not part of this group.

3. Actually, in comparison to the numbers from Q2 to Q3, Q3 to Q4 saw a reduction in the number of persons entering the labour force population. Whereas 782,886 more persons entered the labour force population from April/May/June to July/August/September, just over 480,000 did so going into the Christmas period. April/May last year was the period when many youth who had completed their National Youth Service year became free and unemployed. Could it be that many of them got creative in private hustles to make ends meet towards the Yuletide?

4. This theory in number 3 above may be given some substance in that “with an economically active or working age population of 108.59 million and labour force population of 81.15 million, it means 27.44 million persons within the economically active or working age population decided not to work for one reason or the other in Q4 2016, hence were not part of the labour force and cannot be considered unemployed”.

5. Underemployment – those doing jobs which underutilise their potential and qualification – also increased in the last quarter of last year by over 1.1 million, a significantly large 7% from Q3. The Underemployment rate as at Q4 2016 now stands at 21%.

6. 351, 015 persons became unemployed in Q4, representing an increase of 0.3% from Q3 and amounting to 14.2% unemployment rate for that quarter. In total, 28.58 million people within the labour force were either unemployed or underemployed, as at Q4 2016, the highest figure in any quarter for 2016.

7. The youth were hit hardest by the unemployment waves, with 61.6% of persons within 15–24 qualifying to be in the labour force either unemployed or underemployed in Q4 2016, the highest figure in any quarter of the year. A similar trend of increased unemployment and underemployment was observed for persons between 25 and 34, with 37.5% of them in that bracket.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate has continued to rise since 2010 when it was at 16.3%.

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