One of the major statistical hurdles in our country is the estimation of reliable employment and unemployment data. The NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) was historically conducting Employment and Unemployment Surveys as part of its National Sample Surveys. They were quinquennial (once in every five years) Employment and Unemployment surveys. These surveys were the prime source for statistics about employment and unemployment situation in the country.

But from 1st April 2017, the NSSO has adopted a new employment and unemployment survey called Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). First report of the PLFS was published in June 2019 for the period of 2017-18. The PLFS has now become the major employment and unemployment data of the NSSO; replacing the previous five-year surveys. Since the PLFS aims to provide more employment data for more frequent intervals (annual and quarterly), the PLFS is superior to the earlier five-year employment estimates.

Methodologically, the PLFS is different from the earlier quinquennial surveys in terms of survey methodology, data collection mechanism and sampling design.

Starting of PLFS

The PLFS data starts from July 2017 onwards. First report was published that covers the one-year period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Uniqueness of the new format is that it is aimed to provide quarterly employment and unemployment data. Following are the two objectives of the PLFS.

  1. To measure the dynamics in labour force participation and employment status in the short time interval of three months for the urban areas only in the Current Weekly Status (CWS).

For every quarter, PLFS will bring out the level and change estimates of the key labour force indicators in CWS, viz., Worker population ratio (WPR), Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), Unemployment Rate (UR).

  1. For both rural and urban areas, estimates of all-important parameters in both usual status and CWS will be brought out annually.

It is designed to generate reasonably accurate indicators of labour market at a short span for every quarter.

The PLFS is designed to generate the indicators of labour market operations using two approaches:

(i) Usual Status (US) approach and

(ii) Current Weekly Status (CWS) approach.

Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) Method has been adopted to get quick data.  World Bank CAPI software (Survey Solutions) has been customised to the Indian requirement to conduct the survey.

Annual PLFS Report (July 2017-June 2018)

The NSSO published the first PLFS annual report for the year 2017-18. For this report, the survey was spread over 12,773 First Stage Units (FSUs) (7,014 villages and 5,759 urban blocks) covering 1,02,113 households (56,108 in rural areas and 46,005 in urban areas) and enumerating 4,33,339 persons (2,46,809 in rural areas and 1,86,530 in urban areas).

Estimates of the labour force indicators are presented in the report are based on the usual status approach and current weekly status approach.

As per the annual report for 2017-18; published in June 2019, the unemployment rate (usual status) for urban female s the highest in the country while that for the rural female is the lowest.

Table: Usual Status Unemployment rate for 2017-18


Male Female
Rural 5.8 3.8
Urban 7.1 10.8

Source: PLFS Annual Report 2017-18; NSO, MOSPI

Table: Unemployment rate among educated people (Usual status) -age 15 and above; education secondary and above

Sector Male Female
Rural 10.5 17.3
Urban 9.2 19.8

Source: PLFS Annual Report 2017-18; NSO, MOSPI

Annual and quarterly reports

Estimation of quarterly changes of various indicators of the labour market in urban areas and annual estimation of different labour force indicators both in rural and urban areas are the supplementary objectives of the PLFS.

Results of the PLFS will be brought out in the form of an Annual Key Report, which would contain detailed tables for both rural and urban sectors.

          Annual estimates (for both rural and urban areas) would be generated for major parameters like:

  • Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR),
  • Worker Population Ratio (WPR),
  • Unemployment Rate (UR),
  • Distribution of workers by industry, occupation, workers employed in informal sector and
  • Conditions of employment of the workers.

Similarly, there will be Quarterly Bulletins, which would contain, for the urban sector, estimates of the changes in key labour force parameters like LFPR, WPR and UR in the current weekly status.

The Quarterly estimates (for urban areas only) are generated for the key labour force parameters like LFPR, WPR and UR in CWS and the estimates of their change would also be generated.

The first results of the PLFS was published in June 2019. In future, survey results will be published periodically.

Concepts related to PLFS

Unemployment rate for PLFS is measured under two approaches – Usual Status and Current approach and Weekly Status approach. The reference period for usual status (ps+ss) approach is 1 year and that for current weekly status approach is 1 week.

  1. Current Weekly Status (CWS)

The estimates of unemployed in current weekly status gives an average picture of unemployment in a short period of 7 days during the survey period.

Current weekly status measures the number of persons worked for at least 1 hour on any day during the 7 days preceding the date of survey. Thus, the workforce measured in current weekly status (CWS) gives the average picture of the workforce in a short period of one week during the survey period.

  1. Usual Status

The Labour Force under usual status approach is estimated by considering a time period of one year. It is estimated by clubbing two categories – usual principal status (ps) category and subsidiary status (ss) category.

The estimate of the labour force in the usual status (ps+ss) includes

(a) the persons who either worked or were available for work for a relatively      long part of the 365 days preceding the date of survey and also

(b) persons among the remaining population who had worked at least for 30    days during the reference period of 365 days preceding the date of survey.

  1. Worker Population Ratio (WPR)

Worker Population Ratio (WPR) is the percentage of persons employed among the persons in the population.

  1. Unemployment rate (UR): Unemployment rate (UR) is defined as the percentage of unemployed persons in the labour force.
  2. Educated persons for employment survey: Educated persons are defined as those who have attained the educational level of secondary and above.
  3. Educated unemployment under PLFS: Unemployment among people who have secondary or higher education and an age of 15 years and higher.
  4. Labour force participation rate (LFPR): LFPR is defined as the percentage of persons in the labour force in the population.