India’s eastern Bihar state, one of the country’s largest and poorest states, posted a steep rise in unemployment in the year ended June 2019 to record nearly double the national jobless rate, only months out from elections.
The latest state unemployment data released on Tuesday is a lagging indicator and the current jobless rate was expected to be much higher as millions of unemployed labourers return home due to a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Unemployment in Bihar rose by 3 percentage points to 10.2% during the year ended June 2019, government data showed, even as the country’s overall unemployment slowed to 5.8%, compared with 6.1% a year earlier.
The state, governed by regional party Janata Dal (United) - an ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - is the country’s third most populous and is expected to go to polls in October this year.
India’s Home Minister Amit Shah, last week began the BJP’s election campaign claiming that the coalition had pursued development in the state.
Bihar’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture and a low rate of industrialisation has pushed millions of labourers to migrate to different parts of the country in search of work.
Latest data from CMIE, a private research house, showed unemployment in Bihar was the highest among all large states in the country, with smaller eastern states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh showing higher joblessness.
The government does not release month-wise employment data, and economists have for long complained that India’s joblessness data is out of date.