Amid a raging controversy, the government on Thursday said it has not finalised the survey on labour force which reportedly showed that unemployment rate in the country hit a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18.
The National Sample Survey Office's (NSSO's) periodic labour force survey (PLFS), according to the Business Standard newspaper, states that unemployment was last this high in 1972-73. The unemployment rate was 2.2 per cent in 2011-12, it said.
The report generated a lot of controversies, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying the Modi government had promised two crore jobs, but five years later a "leaked job creation report card" has revealed a "national disaster".
Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, who had previously mounted a defence of lowering of UPA-era GDP growth rates, at a hurriedly called press conference Thursday said the report cited by the newspaper "is not finalised. It is a draft report".
Refusing to comment on the content of the news report, he said the government will release its employment report by March after collating quarter-on-quarter data. He also debunked claims of jobless growth, saying how can a country grow at an average of 7 per cent without generating employment.
Kumar also said it was incorrect to compare the PLFS data with earlier reports of the NSSO as their methodologies are different. To a question on why Niti Aayog was holding a press conference on NSSO data, Kumar said Chief Statistician Pravin Srivastava is out of Delhi and could not be present.
He further said earlier the Central Statistics Office (CSO) was part of the erstwhile Planning Commission, and so "Niti Aayog and NSSO are not completely distinct". Kumar also said as of now he could not conclusively say what was the unemployment rate in 2017-18.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, who too was present at the conference, said India is creating an adequate number of jobs for new entrants, but "probably we are not creating high-quality jobs".
Kant further said that Niti Aayog's estimate shows that the country is creating 7-7.8 million jobs every year and the nature of jobs is also changing.
Citing a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, Kant said a combination of increased government spending, additional IT hiring, and an increase in entrepreneurship created gainful employment for 20-26 million people between 2014 and 2017.
The Niti Aayog CEO also said that according to a study based on data collected by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and the Tractor and Mechanization Association (TMA), over 14 million jobs have been created in the transport sector between 2014-2018.
Two members -- including the acting chairman -- of the National Statistical Commission resigned this week, saying the government had not released the job numbers despite the commission's approval.
The NSSO report was based on data collected between July 2017 and June 2018 and is the first official survey post-demonetisation. The news report further said that unemployment was higher in urban areas (7.8 per cent) as compared to 5.3 per cent in rural areas of the country.
Earlier, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had stated that 1.5 million jobs were lost just in the first four months of 2017 -- immediately after demonetisation of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
The NSSO job report was previously planned to be released in December 2018.