The country's unemployment rate was at 6.1 per cent in 2017-18, the statistics ministry said on Friday, confirming the figure leaked to Business Standard newspaper in January, which said it was the highest since 1972-73. The data was released a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn-in for his second term. The BJP won a huge majority in the general election that ended this month despite concerns over jobs and weak farm prices.
There has not been detailed official data on unemployment for several years, and the government declined to provide comparable numbers for the jobless rate. "It's a new design, new metric... It would be unfair to compare it with the past," chief statistician Pravin Srivastava told reporters.
Business Standard, which first reported the figure in January, had said that it was based on an assessment carried out by the National Sample Survey Office between July 2017 and June 2018.
The unemployment rate was the highest since 1972-73, the newspaper reported without giving a figure for that fiscal year.
The statistics ministry also said that female labour participation rate in urban areas for the quarter ending December 2018 was 19.5 per cent, compared with 73.6 per cent for males.
The unemployment number comes as another set of data released on Friday showed that the economy grew at 5.8 per cent in the January-March period, its slowest pace in 17 quarters, and falling behind China's pace for the first time in nearly two years.
Unemployment and the economy had been pitched as major issues by the Congress during the campaign for the national elections. However, the party faced a crushing defeat in the elections, winning just 52 seats in the 545-member Lok Sabha.
The alleged suppression of the unemployment numbers before the elections had led to resignations from two independent members of the National Statistical Commission, the government-funded advisory body checks the quality of official data.