Despite the fall, the state’s average unemployment rate was higher than the national average of 23.5% last month. Economists attributed the fall in unemployment rate to partial lifting of lockdown restrictions in May. Permission to cabs and autorickshaws to ply in districts with fewer containment zones provided employment to a significant section of people, they said. April saw a steep rise in unemployment rate — from 6.3% to 49.8% — compared to the previous month, according to the survey. The year-on-year shift has also been significantly higher – from 0.9% in May 2019 to 33% now. A senior official said it was not proper to look at unemployment rate during lockdown, when all activities had come to a standstill due to the pandemic. Tamil Nadu has a large number of micro, small & medium enterprises (MSMEs), which are labour-intensive. Since the lockdown began on March 25, they had remained shut for more than a month and their employees were jobless.
“Since May 15, factories and other establishments have been reopening in rural and suburban areas with one-third of the workforce and labourers have returned to agricultural fields to start kuruvai cultivation. This has significantly reduced unemployment rate,” said M Vijayabaskar, professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies.
He cited the high number of non-agricultural workforce in Tamil Nadu for the spurt in unemployment rate in the state during the lockdown period. Moreover, migrant workers went without employment in April. Several lakh migrant workers left Tamil Nadu for their native states in May, thereby bringing down unemployment rate last month, he said.
Trade union leaders feel much more needs to be done to bring down unemployment rate in the state. Slowdown in the economy had set in much before the lockdown. Covid-19 came as a double whammy, increasing the unemployment rate, said A Soundararajan, CITU vice-president.
People working in cashew, beedi and match industries in northern and southern parts of the state were badly hit by the job loss. Unless lockdown was completely lifted, unemployment rate would not fall to single digits, he said.