Unemployment rate at 15-month high in February

by Mahesh Vyas

The unemployment rate increased to 6.1 per cent in February 2018. It was 5 per cent in January and less than 5 per cent in the preceding two months. The 6.1 per cent unemployment rate is, in fact, the highest monthly rate in the past 15 months.

February also saw a mild increase in the labour participation rate. This increased from 43.2 per cent in January to 43.8 per cent in February. While this increase is apparently small and it is still a far cry from its earlier levels of 45 per cent or more, it is an encouraging sign. It reflects a positive movement with a greater proportion of the working-age population seeking work.

The February data seems to suggest that there is a migration of people who had evinced no interest in working till recently to an expression of interest in joining the labour force. This migration is eloquent. It possibly holds a promise, no matter how small, of a turnaround in the economy somewhere.

Jobs did increase in February but not enough to absorb all the natural new entrants into the labour force along with those who migrated into the labour force after having chosen to remain out of it so far.

Recall that people had left the labour force after demonetisation. Labour participation fell sharply after demonetisation. It fell from 46.4 per cent in October 2016 to 42.8 per cent in July 2017. However, it seemed to have stopped falling after July 2017. So, the debilitating impact of demonetisation on labour participation seems to have lasted about eight months. Between August 2017 and February 2018, the LPR has remained within the 43-44 per cent range.

The fall in the LPR earlier reflected a lack of new jobs. This became evident because an age-wise distribution of the LPR over multiple Waves of the survey showed that the LPR fell sharply for the younger groups - principally, age groups between 15 and 25 years. However, the LPR did not change significantly for the higher age group members.

This seems to suggest that demonetisation did not lead to a great loss of jobs but it did lead to a fall in the creation of new jobs to absorb potential accretions to the labour force. This possibly explains the absence of widespread outrage against demonetisation. Youngsters could wait for a little longer for jobs if the elders of the households had their jobs intact. Youngsters possibly were also a lot more convinced or swayed by the hopes of demonetisation ridding society of the scourge of black money. Apparently, a combination of stability of income at home and hopes of dramatic changes in society for the better kept sentiments in favour of demonetisation.

By July 2017, a new crop of youngsters will have entered the labour markets as the academic year ended in the summer months.

It is irksome that though the LPR has improved a tad in February, it has not bounced back to pre-demonetisation levels. It has merely stopped falling. It is now more than 15 months since demonetisation and the RBI has almost completed all the remonetisation. Yet, the LPR has not returned to its earlier levels.

It is possibly the same story of lack of jobs that is holding back the LPR at its low level. Lack of new jobs had triggered a fall in the LPR. Now, lack of sufficient new jobs is keeping the LPR low.

People don’t find it worth the effort to look for jobs if it is generally perceived that there ain’t many going around anyway. As a result, not many feel enthused to come into the labour markets. As a result, the labour market has not expanded enough as yet to regain its lost ground. In February 2018, the labour force was 434 million. This is ten million lower than the size of the labour force before demonetisation. In October 2016, the size was 444 million.

The labour market has not expanded after its contraction post demonetisation because employment has not grown enough. The number of persons employed in February 2018 is 407 million. This is the same as its level a year ago, in February 2017. However, it is lower than its level in October 2016 when it was 414 million.

While the migration of people who were not interested in working earlier, into the labour force as seen in the February data is encouraging, we need to see if this sustains. And if it does, will it lead to an increase in the unemployment rate or will the migrants be absorbed into the workforce? The key is, of course, the availability of sufficient jobs.

First Published in Business Standard Link

Unemployment Rate
Per cent
5.0 +0.0
Consumer Sentiments Index
Base September-December 2015
94.9 0.0
Consumer Expectations Index
Base September-December 2015
94.8 0.0
Current Economic Conditions Index
Base September-December 2015
95.0 0.0
Quarterly CapeEx Aggregates
(Rs.trillion) Jun 17 Sep 17 Dec 17 Mar 18
New projects 2.36 1.34 1.30 2.33
Completed projects 0.87 1.21 1.05 1.26
Stalled projects 2.67 0.69 0.95 3.35
Revived projects 0.23 0.34 0.22 0.18
Implementation stalled projects 0.77 0.78 0.59 1.05
Updated on: 20 May 2018 12:20PM
Quarterly Financials of Listed Companies
(% change) Jun 17 Sep 17 Dec 17 Mar 18
All listed Companies
 Income 9.6 7.9 11.9 10.9
 Expenses 9.9 9.0 12.9 19.0
 Net profit -19.8 -18.1 -14.0 -65.1
 PAT margin (%) 5.3 5.5 4.9 3.0
 Count of Cos. 4,493 4,480 4,443 904
Non-financial Companies
 Income 10.2 8.2 13.2 12.8
 Expenses 10.5 8.1 12.4 14.4
 Net profit -25.1 -6.0 12.6 0.7
 PAT margin (%) 5.2 6.2 6.4 9.5
 Net fixed assets 9.2 18.6
 Current assets 78.6 9.3
 Current liabilities 11.0 12.7
 Borrowings 10.4 -4.1
 Reserves & surplus 5.2 9.2
 Count of Cos. 3,471 3,455 3,441 713
Numbers are net of P&E
Updated on: 20 May 2018 12:20PM
Annual Financials of All Companies
(% change) FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18
All Companies
 Income 5.5 1.7 5.3 1.6
 Expenses 5.6 1.9 5.4 0.7
 Net profit -0.1 -9.6 24.1 7.4
 PAT margin (%) 3.1 2.8 3.5 9.0
 Assets 9.5 10.1 7.0 3.5
 Net worth 8.5 11.5 6.3 3.1
 RONW (%) 5.8 4.9 5.9 14.9
 Count of Cos. 25,724 23,767 20,926 23
Non-financial Companies
 Income 4.8 0.9 5.0 1.6
 Expenses 5.0 0.2 5.4 0.7
 Net profit -8.4 19.7 18.6 8.2
 PAT margin (%) 2.0 2.5 3.0 8.2
 Net fixed assets 13.4 17.2 5.9 5.1
 Net worth 7.0 12.2 4.8 3.3
 RONW (%) 4.7 5.2 6.0 14.0
 Debt / Equity (times) 1.1 1.1 1.0 0.2
 Interest cover (times) 1.9 1.9 2.1 14.4
 Net working capital cycle (days) 66 65 62 35
 Count of Cos. 20,974 19,895 17,449 21
Numbers are net of P&E
Updated on: 03 May 2018 2:18PM

Time series available from 1990 onwards