Nigeria's Unemployment Rate Moves Up to 27.1% in Q2 2020 from 23.1% in Q3 2018 - NBS


Friday, August 14, 2020 08:30 AM / by NBS/ Header Image Credit:  NBS

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  • The number of persons in the economically active or working age population (15 - 64 years of age) during the reference period of the survey, Q2, 2020 was 116,871,186. This is 1.2% higher than the figure recorded in Q3, 2018, which was 115,492,969.

  • The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. people within ages 15 -64, who are able and willing to work) was estimated to be 80,291,894. This was 11.3% less than the number persons in Q3, 2018. Of this number, those within the age bracket of 25-34 were highest, with 23,328,460 or 29.1% of the labour force.

  • The total number of people in employment (i.e. people with jobs) during the reference period was 58,527,276. Of this number, 35,585,274 were full-time employed (i.e. worked 40+ hours per week), while 22,942,003 were under-employed (i.e. working between 20-29 hours per week).  This figure is 15.8% less than the people in employment in Q3, 2020.

  • The unemployment rate during the reference period, Q2, 2020 was 27.1%, up from the 23.1% recorded in Q3, 2018. The underemployment rate increased from 20.1% in Q3, 2018 to 28.6%.

  • The unemployment rate among rural dwellers was 28%, up from 23.9% in Q3, 2018, while urban dwellers reported a rate of 25.4%, up from 21.2%. In the case of underemployment among rural dwellers, it rose to 31.5% from 22.8%, while the rate among urban dwellers rose to 23.2% from 13.7% in Q3, 2018.

  • For the period under review, Q2, 2020, the unemployment rate among young people (15-34years) was 34.9%, up from 29.7%, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2% from 25.7% in Q3, 2018. These rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings.

  • Under State disaggregation, Imo State reported the highest rate of unemployment with 48.7%, followed by Akwa-Ibom State and Rivers State with 45.2% and 43.7% respectively. The State with the lowest rate was Anambra in the South-East with 13.1%.

  • For underemployment, the state which recorded the highest rate was Zamfara with 43.7%, while Anambra State recorded the lowest underemployment rate, with 17% in Q2, 2020.

  • A total number of 2,736,076 did not do any work in the last 7 days preceding the survey due to the lockdown but had secure jobs to return to after the lockdown.


The National Bureau of Statistics in line with its statutory mandate to provide government and policymakers with reliable and timely information, routinely computes and disseminates the labour force statistics. These statistics are generated under a nationwide labour force survey, which samples over twenty thousand households across the country, both in urban and rural areas. Under this exercise, indicators such as the economically active population, labour force, unemployment and underemployment rates are generated to inform the work of government. The last labour force survey conducted was in the 3rd quarter of 2018, which produced an unemployment rate of 23.1% and an underemployment rate of 20.1%.


Given the lag in the series, preparations were already in place to conduct the routine labour force survey in March to update the series and provide much needed information on the state of unemployment in the country. However, this was halted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic with the nationwide lockdown that followed. While the imposed lockdown hampered some of our work in NBS, particularly fieldwork which requires movement of field personnel, the demand for the labour force statistics was increasing, particularly during this COVID period when many businesses were shut down and with serious potential job losses.  Following this increased demand, NBS decided to deploy the use of the Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) system to conduct the survey. While NBS has previously deployed the use of telephone surveys in the past, this has only been done for quick surveys using small samples sizes, usually between 1,900 and 2,200 households. As a result, necessary steps were employed to ensure that the results of the survey will meet set standards in terms of quality and reliability of the responses, as well as the response sample. Some of the methodological changes made for this survey aside the use of telephones, include a reduction in the sample size of the households to be covered, and streamlining the survey questionnaire to reflect present realities under the COVID-19 situation. The results of this novel labour force survey under COVID-19 using CATI is hereby presented in this report.

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Definitions and Methodology

Labour force and non-labour force

The total population in Nigeria is divided into labour force (currently active) and non‐labour force (not currently active). The labour force population covers all persons aged 15 to 64 years who are willing and able to work regardless of whether they have a job or not. The definition of unemployment therefore covers persons (aged 15-64), who during the reference period were available for work, actively seeking for work but were without work. The non-labour force includes population below 15 or older than 64, as well as those within the economically active population i.e. 15‐64, who are unable to work, not actively seeking for work or choose not to work and/or are not available for work. 

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Examples of these are voluntary full-time housewives, underage children 14 and below, adults above 65, full time students, those in active military service, physically challenged and incapacitated persons whose incapacitation prevents them from working. Growth in the labour force therefore fluctuates and depends on the decisions by constituents of the economically active population on whether to work or not which varies across different cultures, religion, as well as various academic, economic, and family considerations.  For example, a housewife might decide to take up employment to supplement the family income due to changes in the husband's salary or due to added family needs, or a person might decide to take some time off work to either study for Master's program or to recover from ill health.

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Employment and Unemployment

A person is regarded as employed if he/she is engaged in the production of goods and services, thereby contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in a legitimate manner, which is a component of the national accounts and receives any form or amount of compensation for that activity. Any of these can cause fluctuations in the economically active and labour force population at any given time. There is no universal standard definition of unemployment as various countries adopt definitions to suit their local priorities. However, all countries however use the International Labour Organization's (ILO) definition, or a variant of it to compute unemployment. The ILO definition covers persons aged 15-64 who during the reference period (which is usually the week preceding the time the survey is administered) were available for work, actively seeking work, but were unable to find work.

The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, like most countries in the world, uses a variant of the ILO definition such that the unemployment is the proportion of those in the labour force (not in the entire economic active population, nor the entire Nigerian population) who were actively looking for work but could not find work for at least 20 hours during the reference period to the total currently active (labour force) population.  Accordingly, you are unemployed if you did absolutely nothing at all or did something but for less than 20 hours during the reference week.

Hence, the unemployment rate is calculated as a percentage of the number of unemployed persons in the labour force:

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Underemployment however occurs if you work less than full time hours, which is 40 hours, but work at least 20 hours on average a week and /or if you work full time but are engaged in an activity that under-utilizes your skills, time and educational qualifications. Consequently, rural farmers only farming seasonally will be considered underemployed if they only work on their farms during the planting and harvests period and do nothing in between. If farmers are however working in dry and wet seasons as is increasingly becoming the case, they will then be involved in full time employment. This applies to drivers, cooks, cleaners, bankers, teachers etc who in most case work well over 40 hours and hence are considered full time employed as their working hours and skills meet the adopted methodology.

It is important to note that the international definition of unemployment, underemployment or employment is not a function of the quantity/suitability of wages earned nor it is a function of job satisfaction. Rather employment, underemployment and unemployment are treated strictly as a function of a person's involvement or otherwise in economic activity even if that activity is performed solely to make ends meet and not for satisfaction or enjoyment. The suitability of wages or job fulfilment is covered under other indices such as the living standard, poverty rate or happiness index, but not in determining whether one is employed, unemployed or underemployed, which is a function of economic engagement.

Survey Design and Methodology

The approach adopted in collecting the required information for this survey was the Computer Assisted Telephone interviewing (CATI) approach. The data collection was done in all the 36 states of the Federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Enumeration Areas (EAs) in both urban and rural areas were canvassed for the exercise. The scope of the survey covered the following areas -

  • Identification of Enumeration Areas (EAs) and Households
  • Demographic characteristics of Households Members
  • Type of economic activities that household members engaged in
  • Working history/occupational profile of the labour force
  • Number and characteristics of unemployed persons
  • Covid-19 related information

The sample design was done using the National Integrated Survey of Household (NISH) Frame. Using the sample frame from the recently completed National Living Standard Survey (NLSS), a 2-stage selected process was carried out to get the final sample size. First, 50 Enumeration Areas were selected in each State and the FCT, making a total number of 1850 EAs nationwide. A further selection was done in each of the EAs, 10 households were selected for interview in each EA. This gave a total of 18,500 households nationwide, which is a robust sample for state level reporting. 

There were 2 levels of trainings conducted to adequately equip the interviewers and data monitors for the exercise. The first was training of trainers (TOT). This was done via Zoom. Experienced officers from the headquarters were trained on the abridged questionnaire and revised methodology for the conduct of the exercise. Also trained at this level were headquarter data monitors and back-checkers. A further training was then organised specifically for the interviewers. This was done by geo-political zones. 10 interviewers were selected per state, with each interviewer assigned to 50 households. Each interviewer was expected to cover 5 households per day, with a total of 12 days allotted for fieldwork. On assessment of the response level after the 12 days of interviews, a further 5 days was added to allow interviewers complete allotted households.

A robust data monitoring mechanism was adopted to assure for quality of the returns. Interviewers were mandated to submit their completed interviews to the server daily and a team of data editors would go through each of the returns to scrutinise before giving a final approval to go for analysis. Any suspicious returns were rejected and sent back for further review and clarification. Also, there was a team of back-checkers that would randomly call the respondents from the completed returns to confirm that they provided the information contained in the interviews. All this was done to ensure that the quality of data collected was reliable and of standard. Incentives in the form of airtime was also provided to each respondent to encourage their participation in the survey.

The processing of the returns was done by the NBS data processing team using STATA software, following the appropriate procedures and standards for computing labour force statistics.


Response Rate

A total number of 16,285 interviews were completed out of the initial sample of 18,500, giving a response rate of 88% at the end of the survey. As indicated in the table below, 332 households contacted declined participating in the interview, 786 households' numbers did not connect, and 691 households had not contact numbers.

Table 1: Result of Interview






# of households

% of overall sample

# of households

% of urban sample

# of households

% of rural sample

Status of Interview


Interview completed







Interview not granted







Phone number not connected







Partially completed







Phone call not answered







Number does not exist







No phone number
















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