As of the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had reported the unemployment rate to be 33.3 percent. However, in a surprising turn of events, the NBS had announced on August 24, 2023, that the latest unemployment report adopted a new methodology and presented an in-depth analysis of the labour market. According to the statement, the latest Nigeria Labour Force Survey (NLFS) report sheds light on the dynamics of the labour market within the country.
Now, the report covers Q4 of 2022 and Q1 of 2023, presenting an in-depth analysis of key labour market indicators such as employment, including unemployment rates, underemployment rates, hours worked, and informal employment. The revised methodology was said to have aligned with the country’s contemporaries in Africa, such as Ghana, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Benin, Gambia etc., in line with international best practices. In the new report, the NBS said on Thursday that Nigeria unemployment rate was at 5.3 percent in Q4 2022 and declined to 4.1 percent in Q1 2023.
Economic analysts discredit the methodology and conclusion of the report.
This revelation by the NBS has elicited some controversies and debate about whether the agency was truthful and ethical in its dealing of the statistics. Amidst controversies surrounding the latest Nigeria Labour Force Statistics (NLFS) released by the agency, some financial and economic analysts have discredited the methodology employed as well as the conclusions arrived at by the bureau. Analyst and Executive Vice Chairman at Highcap Securities Limited, David Adonri, had picked holes in the report, saying that he could hardly believe that the report was true when the bureau published it.
He said that at year-end, the unemployment rate was over 35 percent. In fact, he said that analysts were even skeptical about the closing figure because it may have been understated. While saying that for the NBS to employ a new method that produced the recent result beats every imagination, Adonri raised some significant questions. He asked if the new statistical approach was actually globally acceptable. With the desolation of farmlands due to the reign of terror by bandits, Boko-haram and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), he said that agriculture which absorbs the majority of Nigerian labour force is beleaguered.
Communications expert says report incongruent with economic challenges.
The impact of past government’s economic disruption and recent fall out from macroeconomic reforms have caused massive loss of jobs. He asked if a 4.1-percent unemployment rate can be justifiable with these developments. He categorically said that the figure released by NBS is contradictory to reality on ground and cannot stand the test of statistical confidence, consistency and global acceptability. Meanwhile, Clifford Egbomeade, economic analyst and communications expert at ID Africa, said that the report provides significant insights.
On the methodology used by the NBS which was a revision of its regular methodology, Egbomeade stated that, ‘‘The NBS attributed the drastic difference to the adjustment in its methodology, aligning with International Labour Organization (ILO) guidelines.” He said that there were notable differences that emerged in defining the working-age population, which now includes individuals aged 15 years and above, rather than the previous 15 to 64-year range. He said that it was critical to assess the methodology used, adapt it to current economic realities, and ensure a more comprehensive understanding of employment issues.
Prof. says it could lead to wrong policy decisions.
While expressing his displeasure with NLFS report, Professor Uche Uwaleke, Financial Economist and a renowned Professor of Capital Market at Nasarawa State University, posited that this new methodology, which includes apprentices, is tantamount to significantly lowering the bar and could lead to wrong policy decisions by the government. In his words, “I think the unemployment number of 4.1 percent for the first quarter 2023 recently announced by the NBS may not reflect the true situation on ground owing to a number of reasons including the low sample size of under 40,000 persons used in the survey as well as the adoption of the ILO guidelines for employment computation, which considers employment from the perspective of persons of working age who are engaged in some type of jobs for at least one hour in a week for pay or profit.”