About 1.72 million workers lost jobs in three months to June when Kenya imposed coronavirus-induced lockdown that led to layoffs and pay cuts.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows the number of people in employment fell to 15.87 million between April and end of June compared to 17.59 million the previous quarter.
Young people were the hardest hit by job cuts compared to their counterparts aged above 35 years in an economic setting that is plagued by a hiring freeze on the back of sluggish corporate earnings.
This is a major blow to jobseekers, especially the close to one million young people who graduate from various educational institutions every year.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey indicates that nearly 4.64 million people were jobless at the end of June, up from 2.94 million at the end of March — the month when Kenya reported its first case of Covid-19.
This means that 22.61 percent of the 20.5 million labour force, up from 14.3 percent in March, reflecting significant business disruptions in the wake of the pandemic.
“We cannot ascertain for how long this damage will last. We need to be prepared to manage businesses within the Covid- 19 environment,” Federation of Kenya Employers executive director Jacqueline Mugo told the Business Daily.
“Businesses that quickly adapt to the new normal and come up with strategies for survival will most likely come out of this crisis season much faster and better.”
The jobs report reflected a grim period for workers and businesses during the peak of Covid-19 restrictions covering travel mass gathering and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The restrictions were imposed on March 25 and on July 6 the government announced the phased reopening of the country, lifting restrictions on travel in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa as well as allowing air travel to resume.
Young workers between the ages of 20 and 29 years accounted for 63 percent of the lost jobs or 1,158,466 positions.
Those between the ages of 35 and legal retirement age of 50 accounted for 312,316 positions or 17 percent of the lost jobs.
This is an indication that corporate Kenya was keen to keep experienced staff on their payroll and also points to creating redundancies at the minimal costs to firms struggling to preserve cash amid a plunge in sales.
The number of people in employment has been rising since Kenya started making public the job report in March 2019 before the economy started shedding jobs in January.
Workers on payroll or business increased from 16.35 million in March 2019 to a peak of 18.1 million in December. It dropped to 17.58 million in March and 15.87 million in June.