By Nneka Chile and Alexis Akwagyiram
LAGOS, June 18 (Reuters) - Mary Uzoma had never been unemployed until March when she was among those laid off by the transport company she worked for in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.
For the last year, in her role as a trainer, she travelled to other Nigerian states to teach motorcycle taxi drivers how to use the ride-hailing firm's software.
But, following Nigeria's first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in late February and the announcement of a lockdown in Lagos from March 30, the company decided to shed staff fearing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel.
"It's been very hard finding something to do... because most organisations have gone into virtual work, so nobody wants to employ new people," said 29-year-old Uzoma.
A government report on the impact of the outbreak said some 39.4 million people - about a third of Nigeria's workforce - may be unemployed by the end of this year.
The government expects Africa's biggest economy to contract by 3.4% this year as a result of the pandemic. Nigeria has reported around 17,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 400 deaths.
Meanwhile, the cost of living has risen steadily. Annual inflation rose for the ninth straight month in May, to a two-year high of 12.4%.
Hilda Kragha, CEO of Nigerian online jobs portal Jobberman, said the number of clients searching for work had more than doubled.
"Typically, we have about 20,000 active job seekers week-on-week. The past few months it's been up to 50,000," she said.
Kragha said companies in hospitality, entertainment and advertising were worst hit.
Uzoma, trying to remain upbeat, said she hoped for a COVID-19 cure so that "people learn to live with it".
"Organisations are going to be open, back to working full time, and then try to get people to work for them," she said. (Reporting by Nneka Chile and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Additional reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram Editing by Gareth Jones)
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