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By Alexis Akwagyiram
LAGOS, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 23.1 percent of the work force in the third quarter, up from 18.1 percent a year earlier, the head of the statistics office Yemi Kale said on his official Twitter feed on Wednesday.
The economy is a major theme of debate in the lead-up to elections in 2019. President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 campaigning to fix the economy, but his term has been marred by the country’s first recession in a quarter of a century and a sluggish recovery since 2017.
“As of Q3 2018, the calculated unemployment rate was 23.1 percent, the underemployment rate was 20.1 percent, and the combined unemployment and underemployment rate was 43.3 percent,” the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in its report published on Wednesday.
“While the Q3, 2018 results show a rise in the rate of unemployment, it also depicts a slowing down in the rate of increase in unemployment, which is usually the first sign of improvement in reducing unemployment,” it said.
Atiku Abubakar, the main opposition candidate in the coming election, has vowed to get one of Africa’s largest economies back on track and secure jobs for the work force in a country of roughly 190 million people, saying that if elected he would aim to double the size of the economy to $900 billion by 2025.
The NBS last released employment data a year ago when it said unemployment stood at 18.8 percent in Q3 2017 but Kale said on Twitter on Wednesday that it had stood at 18.1 percent then.
Earlier this year he also said on Twitter that the stats office did not have sufficient funds to compile employment data. (Additional reporting by Paul Carsten in Abuja; Editing by Hugh Lawson)