Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, at an election rally in Assam's Nalbari district on March 31, 2021, claimed that Assam has the highest unemployment in the entire country.

Due to unavailability of recent government data, FactChecker checked several other sources as well and all pointed to the same thing: Gandhi's claim is wrong.

The Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation's latest Periodic Labour Force Survey was conducted during June 2018-June 2019. Lakshadweep had the highest rate of unemployment (31.6%), followed by Nagaland (17.5%), but Assam's unemployment rate was 6.7%, according to PLFS 2018-19.

Also, the labour force participation rate (LPR) in the state stood at 46.5% and here Bihar bagged the last spot (40.4%), according to the survey. The International Labour Organization defines LPR as a measure of the proportion of a country's working-age population that engages actively in the labour market, either by working or looking for work.

The ministry's National Statistical Office also releases quarterly PLFS reports on the state of unemployment in urban areas. According to its April-June 2020 report, Assam's unemployment rate is pegged at 15.6% and Maharashtra has the highest rate of unemployment (35.6%), followed by Jharkhand (32%). But here the estimates of the unemployed are released in current weekly status, which gives an average picture of unemployment in a short period of seven days during the survey period.

FactChecker also verified Gandhi's claim against the data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), which presents a fairly recent picture of unemployment in the state. CMIE, which is a private research organization based in Mumbai, produces economic and business databases.

Assam has the lowest rate of unemployment (1.1%) as of March 2021 and Haryana has the highest (28.1%), according to the CMIE data. In fact, this data showed that Assam has seen drastic fluctuations in its unemployment rate, although all low compared to other states.

In 2020, the state's unemployment rate went from 3% in October 2020 to 7.6% in December 2020 and then 1.65% in February 2021. In January-February 2021, the number of unemployed people stood at 2 lakh, which was 8.7 lakh in December 2020 and 4.5 lakh in November 2020.

The employment rate in Assam has shown a steady increase after the lockdown. In April and May 2020 when Covid-19 was at its peak and lockdown led to curtailment of employment opportunities, unemployment rate had shot up even higher by 9.6% and 11.1%, respectively. And the number of people employed in April 2020, dropped to 6.83 lakh. This recovered in September 2020, when the number rose to 14.1 lakh.

"The sample that CMIE has collected cuts across different villages and towns, government and private sector and informal and formal sectors. The unemployment rate in Assam has been traditionally very low. Even if a large number of people are involved in the informal sector in the state, they still have some form of employment," Mahesh Vyas, CEO, CMIE told FactChecker.

CMIE's data on LPR, accessed by FactChecker, also showed fluctuations of around seven percentage points twice between December 2020 and February 2021. The LPR in Assam was 42.97% in December 2020, 50.57% in January 2021 and 43.27% in February this year.

While talking about the probable reasons for this trend, Dr. Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre said, "There may have been seasonal work in agricultural sector. November lies between the planting and harvesting season and in the month of December harvesting takes place in the state. Only after Bihu (in March-April) does the second round of employment start.

"Also, since Covid restrictions have been reduced, so more people must have gone back to work and been re-employed," added Fernandes.