Govt mulls increasing frequency of unemployment data to monthly, quarterly | Economy & Policy News

The government is considering increasing the frequency of surveys for jobs data to monthly for urban areas and quarterly for rural areas, a senior government official said.

Currently, the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI) conducts the periodic labour force survey (PLFS) for urban areas on a quarterly basis and rural areas on an annual basis.

The latest survey pertaining to urban areas for the March quarter of FY24 was released in May this year. The annual survey for July 2022-June 2023 was released in October last year.

“Bringing employment data at frequent intervals has been one of the priorities of the government. We are exploring these alternatives to find out if we can increase the frequency of the existing PLFS surveys to better reflect the trends in labour markets,” the person said.

Developed countries typically release jobs data on a monthly basis, which is widely tracked by markets and economists to measure resilience of the economy. Dominance of the informal economy in India has so far made tracking employment data more frequently a difficult task.

The methodology used by the survey for quarterly releases relies on current weekly status (with a reference period of seven days). However, the annual PLFS for rural areas relies on usual status (with a reference period of 365 days).

According to the latest quarterly estimate, the urban unemployment rate increased to 6.7 per cent for the March quarter of FY24 compared with 6.5 per cent in the preceding quarter.

“Efforts are on to harness the technological tools that are available. The computer-based methodology now used allows the ministry to record responses immediately on its server and also provides data validation in real time. Efforts are on to make the data readily available so that it proves useful for policymakers. The goal is to move such indicators to monthly releases,” the official added.

India’s employment data has been a bone of contention for the government and economists.

Private agencies like Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) have become a ready-reference point for unemployment data due to its timeliness and higher frequency.

Apart from MoSPI, other ministries, including the labour ministry, also conduct surveys on employment in the form of quarterly employment survey (QES).

Unlike PLFS, which gives a supply-side picture of the labour market, QES provides a demand-side view.

The QES results have been significantly delayed and the latest survey only pertains to Q2 of FY23. Results of the later rounds are yet to be released. 

First Published: Jun 19 2024 | 10:48 PM IST

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