Tyranny of numbers

A Mixed Summer Employment Report for Iran

Posted in General by Djavad on December 4, 2022

The latest report by the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) for Q2 of the Iranian year 1401 (21 June to 20 September 2022) shows a total of 23.8 million employed compared to 23.4 million a year ago. The increase of 374,000 jobs is smaller than the size of the cohort of half a million new job seekers and, more importantly, falls short of the one million new jobs President Ebrahim Raisi promised during his presidential campaign in 2021.

The increase in total employment is somehow less disappointing if you consider that employment in industry and services rose by 685,000, which would have been closer to the one million jobs target had agriculture not lost 300,000 jobs between summer 2021 and 2022. For the second quarter, services added more than half a million jobs. Industry added another 122,000 jobs, which is not a stellar performance but much improved from the loss of 160,000 jobs spring over spring. Employment in agriculture was down in both spring and summer quarters of this year.

The divergent experiences of agriculture and the other two sectors suggests that the loss of jobs in agriculture may be due to factors special to that sector, such as the decade long drought. Clearly, the government cannot do much about it in the near future, but all previous governments are collectively responsible. Lack of regulation to control the extraction of underground water from common aquifers, and subsidies to electricity and diesel fuel that run the water pumps that are rapidly depleting Iran’s precious aquifers are two of the principal culprits.

The recent protests make it unlikely that the government can do much about energy prices or hasten job growth any time soon. So, to reach the government’s target of two million new jobs by this summer something must be done about easing restrictions on Iran’s external trade and the political crisis that has engulfed the country in the past two-and-a-half months.

Back to the employment report. The unemployment rate for the 15+ population was down by 0.7 percentage point, to 8.9%, despite a slight increase in the number of people participating in the labor market. The unemployment rate of young workers (18-34 years old), fell by more (1.4 percentage points), to 16.2%. These changes show that the economy was probably growing this summer, albeit slowly.

The unemployment rate for women also fell, though by less than for men. Women’s unemployment rate is more than twice that of men– 17.2% vs. 7.3% in summer 2022. A similar ratio held for the the age group 18-34 years old, 29.3% for women vs. 13.1% for men.

A quick note about the data. The numbers reported here are based on SCI quarterly report. Since for the past several months, the SCI site has been inaccessible from outside Iran, I place their latest employment report (in Persian) in the link below. I hope that the loss of access to SCI reports is temporary because in this day and age when news outlets report from each other, internet reports can be highly misleading. For example, a news site that claims to operate under an official license from Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance last week reported the loss of “over 3 million” jobs in one year. It based this claim on a report by the usually reliable Eghtesad News but without providing a link.

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