Since March 23, when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus caused COVID-19, the Indian economic activity came to a standstill, taking the unemployment rate up to 27.11 per cent for the week ended May 3, data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed.

Previously, before the pandemic hit the nation, the unemployment rate was at the level of 6.74 per cent in mid-March, the CMIE said.

The Mumbai-based think tank’s report showed that urban areas were among the most affected by the crisis, majority of the red zones due to the COVID-19 cases, at 29.22 per cent, as against 26.69 per cent for the rural areas.

Since the beginning analysts have been warning prime minister Narendra Modi-led government about the repercussions of the lockdown, which is now extended for the third time by two weeks.

Scenes of local migrants fleeing urban centres like Delhi and Mumbai only confirmed the long-held concerns on their employment as the economic activity came to a grinding halt.

The government has so far announced income and food support to the vulnerable people as part of a Rs 1.70 lakh crore fiscal stimulus to the economic, financial and possibly humanitarian crisis, and is also mulling a second round of measures soon.

The US has seen a huge spike in unemployment as over 26 million people have claimed for state support because of losing their jobs. Experts often rue the absence of a good gauge of jobs in India, which is predominantly an unorganised-sector led economy.

CMIE’s weekly series of data pointed to a steady increase in unemployment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, with the week to March 29 showing the sharpest spike to 23.81 per cent.

As per CMIE’s data, the monthly unemployment rate in April stood at 23.52 per cent, up from March’s 8.74 per cent.

As of the end of April, Puducherry in South India had the highest number of unemployment at 75.8 per cent, followed by neighbouring Tamil Nadu 49.8 per cent, Jharkhand 47.1 per cent and Bihar 46.6 per cent.

Maharashtra’s unemployment rate was pegged at 20.9 per cent by the CMIE, while the same for Haryana stood at 43.2 per cent, Uttar Pradesh at 21.5 per cent and Karnataka at 29.8 per cent.

Hilly states had the lowest incidence of unemployment as of April, the think tank said, pointing out that the rate in Himachal Pradesh stood at 2.2 per cent, Sikkim at 2.3 per cent and Uttarakhand at 6.5 per cent.