About 1.7 million workers lost jobs in 3 months to June when the government imposed coronavirus induced lockdown that led to layoffs and pay cuts.
Data from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics[KNBS] shows the number of people in employment reduced to 18.57 million between April and end of June compared to 17.59 million in the previous quarter.
Young people were the hardest hit by the 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 blowout to job seekers, 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 people were jobless at the end of June, up to 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 14.3percent in March, reflecting significant business disruptions in the wake of the pandemic.
The jobs report reflected a grim period for workers and businesses during the peak of COVID 19 restrictions covering
travel mass gathering and dusk to dawn curfew.
The restrictions were imposed on March 25 and on July 6 the government announced the phased re-opening of the country, lifting the 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 63percent of the lost jobs or 1,158,466 positions.
Those between the ages of 35 and the legal retirement age of 50 accounted for 312,316 positions 0r 17percent 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 sales.
The number of people in employment has been rising since Kenya started making public the job reports 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 18.1million in December.
It dropped to 17.58 million in March and 15.87million in June.
However, the state defines the unemployed as people who do not have a job and have been looking for employment in recent weeks, leaving out those who have given up on landing work.
Under this definition, the government puts the number of unemployed Kenyans at 1,841,918 or 10.4percent, which is double 961,666 in the quarter ended March.
"The highest proportion of the unemployed was recorded in the age groups 20-24 and 25-29, each registering over 20percent," the KNBS analysts wrote in the report.
The number of formal jobs generated by the economy fell to a seven-year low in 2019.
The economy generated only 78,400 new formal jobs last year, but informal jobs rose from744,000 in 2018 to 767,900 last year.
Figures for this year will be hit by the effects of the coronavirus disease.
Companies started reporting falling sales ahead of Kenya imposing restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Kenya has confirmed nearly 34,315 cases of the coronavirus and 577 deaths, with cases continuing to climb. The outbreak has battered the economy. With the Treasury, projecting growth will slow to 2.5 percent this year from 5.4percent last year, due to the impact of the pandemic.
While the phased reopening of the country on July 6 has triggered a rise in business activities, firms have continued to shed jobs.