LAGOS, Aug 14 – More than a quarter of Nigeria’s workers were out of a job in the second quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday, in the country’s first unemployment data published since 2018.
The unemployment rate stood at 27.1% in the second quarter. It was 23.1% in the previous report, which dates back to the third quarter of 2018.
Second-quarter unemployment among young people aged 15-34 was the highest at 34.9%. The data showed that in total, 58.5 million people were employed during the period, 35.6 million of them full time.
Nigeria has been hard-hit by the fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic, grappling not only with its own outbreak but also from a plunge in oil prices after lockdowns worldwide.
The country had 48,116 confirmed cases and 966 deaths as of Friday. Oil prices, which account for more than half of government revenue and 90% of foreign reserves, fell close to 20-year lows in the second quarter and remain more than 20% below their January peak.
Cheta Nwanze, lead partner with consultancy SBM Intelligence, said the figures were concerning for a country of 200 million, particularly the youth unemployment figures.
“In a country with a median age of 19, these portend a bad future as potential socio-economic issues such as increased crime and social unrest will come to the fore as more able-bodied people look to forcefully take what they need to live,” he said.
The Nigerian economy is expected to shrink 5.4% this year, its worst contraction in nearly 40 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Joblessness will likely climb further even as the government of President Muhammadu Buhari launches a program to employ nearly 800,000 people to build new infrastructure in an attempt to ease the blow of the pandemic.
“The country had fundamental structural imbalances pre-Covid which are yet to be addressed, so I think we should expect to see an increase in the unemployment rate,” said Omotola Abimbola, an analyst at Chapel Hill Denham Securities Ltd.
For years the population growth rate in Nigeria has outpaced economic output, making it the country with the highest number of poor in the world. With a fertility rate of five children per woman, Nigeria is expected to be the third most populous in the world by 2050 with over 300 million people, according to the United Nations
The number of people looking for employment through Nigeria’s biggest recruiting website Jobberman Ltd. has jumped five-fold since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Chief Executive Officer Hilda Kragha said in an interview last month.
Nigeria entered the pandemic without having fully recovered from a 2016 recession that left more than 13 million people unemployed.
The World Bank has warned Nigeria faces a recession that will be “much more pronounced” than in 2016 and potentially the nation’s worst financial crisis in four decades.