Nigeria's unemployment rate falls to 4.1%, using new methodology. Analysts say it’s an undercount

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria’s statistics agency on Thursday reported the country’s unemployment rate as 4.1%, the lowest in many years, but one analysts said was an undercount because of the agency's new methodology.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) now classifies the employed in Nigeria as those working for at least one hour a week, as against the 20-hour-a-week parameter it had been using.

In its new labor force report, the bureau said about three in four working-age Nigerians aged at least 15 were employed in the first quarter of 2023.

Analysts said the unemployment statistics with the updated methodology do not reflect the true number of jobless people in Africa’s most populous country, where many have lost their jobs as a result of surging inflation and where the government has struggled to create enough jobs.

The true unemployment rate in Nigeria might be more than the 33% recorded in 2020 when the NBS last released the labor data, said Akintunde Ogunsola, an Abuja-based financial analyst. He said many businesses in the micro, small and medium enterprise sector — a significant part of the economy — have been forced either to lay off some workers or shut down.

The statistics agency said earlier this year it was updating its methodology for the labor force survey to align with guidelines set by the International Labor Organization. The new methodology removed the age limit of 64 and classified anyone aged at least 15, who is engaged in work for pay or profit for at least one hour within the last seven days, as employed.

However, critics of the new methodology have cited a common trend in Nigeria where many jobless people do any kind of work to get a little money to sustain themselves, even if that is done once a week. Analysts said classifying such people as employed because such work lasted for more than one hour does not reflect their true employment status.

The methodology should be revised to "properly reflect our own reality," according to Muda Yusuf, a former director general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry who currently leads the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise.

"What can a one-hour job do?" Yusuf queried. “There are so many people who are doing jobs that cannot even feed them. So if such people work for just one hour, how much would they get?”