NITI Aayog on Thursday debunked claims of jobless growth after the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) periodic labour force survey (PLFS), stated that India’s unemployment rate hit a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017.

The government said that the report was yet to be approved.

The survey states that unemployment was last this high in 1972-73. To compare, the unemployment rate in the country had gone down to 2.2 per cent in 2011-12, according to NSSO data.

NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, who had previously mounted a defence of lowering of UPA-era GDP growth rates, at a press conference on 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 employment.

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, who too was present at the conference, said India is creating adequate number of jobs for new entrants, but “probably we are not creating high-quality jobs”.

The issue hogged the limelight after two independent members of the National Statistical Commission — acting Chairman PC Mohanan and JV Meenakshi — resigned on January 28 over a disagreement with the Government on certain issues.

Read | ‘Not taken seriously’: 2 national statistics panel members quit over disagreement with Govt

One issue pertains to the government withholding the release of the results of NSSO’s quinquennial survey, for the year 2017-18 even though the commission approved the report. This gains significance in the wake of the government being criticised for a scarcity of jobs in the country.

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.

Following the developments, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation on Wednesday put out a clarification stating that the NSSO was processing the quarterly data for the period July 2017 to December 2018 and the report will be released thereafter.

The media report revealing a massive hike in the unemployment rate has come as a major setback for the Narendra Modi government just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections which are likely to be held in April-May.