The world’s biggest lockdown forced 122 million people out of jobs in India last month, according to estimates from a leading private sector think tank.

Employment plunged in April after the government imposed a 40-day lockdown in a nation of 1.3 billion people, forcing businesses to shut and pushing up the jobless rate to 27.1% in the week ended May 3, surveys by the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy showed.

Daily wage workers and those employed by small businesses took a massive blow, according to CMIE. These include hawkers, roadside vendors, workers employed in the construction industry and many who eke out a living by pushing handcarts to rickshaws.

“This is not just a mind-boggling number,” Mahesh Vyas, chief executive of CMIE wrote in the Business Standard newspaper. “It is a human tragedy because these are perhaps, the most vulnerable parts of society.”

The estimates of India’s job losses are more than four times the 30 million Americans who’ve filed for unemployment benefits over six weeks. The data could get worse in India with the lockdown extended in many areas, CMIE warned.

“Initially, a lockdown only hurts the most vulnerable labor that is informally employed in unorganised sectors,” Vyas said. “Gradually, it starts hitting the more secure jobs. Startups have announced lay-offs and industry associations have warned of job losses.”

More people are also looking for a job, with the participation rate rising to 36.2% in the week ended May 3 from 35.4% previously, Vyas said.

The government doesn’t publish regular jobless data, with investors relying on surveys from CMIE to give them guidance on the labor market. The last official figures from the government, released in May 2019, estimated the unemployment rate at 6.1% in the year to June 2018.


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