India’s unemployment rate highest in 45 years

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An official survey that has been withheld by the government shows India's unemployment rate rose to a 45-year high during 2017-2018, the Business Standard newspaper reported on Thursday, delivering a blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi just months before what is expected to be a closely fought general election. The controversy gained momentum after NSSO's acting chairman PC Mohanan and member JV Meenakshi quit with both having a year left in their term.

To compare, the unemployment rate in the country had gone down to 2.2 per cent in 2011-12, according to NSSO data.

The National Sample Survey Office has conducted a nation wide survey where the report was ready in December previous year but the government had no intention to release it ahead of the Lok Sabha elections of 2019.

"The feeling that we are trying to hide something is incorrect", NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant added.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter to comment on the high unemployment rate. In 2014, Ola created 37,000 jobs in 20 cities.

That report said the job losses were mainly due to demonetisation and rising working costs after the launch of a national sales tax in July 2017, which led to hundreds of thousands losing jobs in small businesses.

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The Indian economy has been expanding at a rate of over 7 per cent annually, one of the fastest in the world.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation had denied this in a statement, saying that the report would be released once quarterly data between July 2017 and December 2018 had been processed.

Last year, the government had adopted a similar tone and completely disregarded a report of a sub-committee of the NSC headed by N.R. Bhanumurthy, a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, saying the methodology for calculation of the back-series had not been finalised.

"You can't be growing at 7.2 per cent and say no jobs are being created". The report also says youth unemployment is at "astronomically high" levels of 13 to 27 per cent.

The data is significant because this was the first comprehensive assessment of India's employment situation conducted after Modi's decision in November 2016 to withdraw most of the country's banknotes from circulation overnight, the report said. "Instead, the government kept citing job numbers based on EPFO's payroll data and the Mudra loans, which are not helpful", he said.

The survey comes a month after the All India Manufacturers' Organisation released a report that said 3.5 million jobs had been lost since 2016.