The Centre on Thursday admitted in the Rajya Sabha that data on unemployment figures had been leaked and that efforts were being made to identify who was responsible for it, PTI reported.

Minister of State for Planning and Statistics Rao Inderjit Singh termed the matter serious, and said data pertaining to unemployment figures were leaked ahead of its announcement in May. He was responding to queries during the Question Hour.

“It is right that there was a data leak,” Singh said. “Our survey result was to come out on May 30, 2019, but before that the data was leaked. We have taken this very seriously. Maybe someone has an agenda behind it and the data was leaked. We are making efforts to ascertain who was behind the leak.”

A report in the Business Standard on January 31 had claimed that a study allegedly kept buried by the government found unemployment at a 45-year-high of 6.1% in 2017-’18 – the first full year after demonetisation. Opposition leaders had used it as an opportunity to attack the government for demonetisation and allegedly covering up the report, while experts in the field, such as economist Kaushik Basu, had expressed concern about the figures. Two members of the National Statistical Commission resigned after the government refused to release the data.

On May 31, the Centre released the report which confirmed that unemployment in the country stood at 6.1% of the total labour force in 2017-’18.

Singh said employment and unemployment rate surveys used to be conducted once in five years. “This government deemed it fit to carry out a periodic survey every year,” he said, adding that the methodology and technology used for the survey had been changed.

“The new model for labour employment and unemployment is different from early methods and you cannot compare apples with oranges,” Singh said. “The new method now is a yearly method taking into account quarterly surveys. The only comparability that can happen is when the next year data comes. At present, it was compared to 6.1% and the yearly data cannot be compared with the 5-year figure,” he said.

The minister government considered unemployment “very seriously” and took steps to alleviate the unemployment scenario. “Taking into account the seriousness of the matter, the government has set up a cabinet committee on employment and skill development to ensure that more people get jobs,” he said.