Statin records joblessness at 4.5 per cent with more Jamaicans working now than ever since Independence

JAMAICA'S unemployment rate fell to a new low according to the latest findings from the April 2023 Labour Force Survey (LFS) which saw more people working now than at any other time in the country's history. The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin),which reported the data Tuesday, said the unemployment rate was 4.5 per cent.

Director general of Statin Carol Coy presenting the findings during a virtual media briefing said the latest figure was 1.5 percentage points lower than that for the comparable period of 2022. It also ranks below the last reported July unemployment rate, which stood at 6.6 per cent.

Due to the challenges encountered with the ongoing census/national population counting exercise which began in September 2022, a labour force survey was not done for October 2022 and January 2023.

"In April 2023 there were 61,300 unemployed persons, 19,700 less compared to April 2022. This was influenced by the fall in the number of unemployed females," Coy said in her report.

"The unemployment rate moved down for both males and females. The male unemployment rate was 3.4 per cent while the unemployment rate for females was 5.7 per cent," she stated.

The number of unemployed males was 24,900 — a decrease of 8,900 — while the number of unemployed females fell to 36,400 compared to 47,200 a year earlier.

As at April 2023 there were 1,373,800 persons in the labour force — an increase of 1.7 per cent — primarily due to higher participation from the number of females, which climbed to 643,800.

For the reporting period youth unemployment, which also saw a 3.3 percentage point decrease relative to April 2022, stood at 12.2 per cent in April 2023. The female youth unemployment rate was 12.3 per cent while that for males was 12.0 per cent.

In April 2023 there were 43,300 or 3.4 per cent more employed persons in the country when compared to April 2022 when it was 1,269,300. Of this data, 13,600 or just about 2 per cent more males added to the increase while over 5 per cent or 29,700 more females made up the employed labour force.

As a result, of the 1,312,600 persons making up the employed labour force, over two-thirds or approximately 68.6 per cent were said to be females.

The occupation groups 'Service Workers and Shop and Market Sales Workers' and industry group 'Real Estate and Other Business Services' which comprise the fast-growing business process outsourcing (BPOs) along with other business service professionals including consultants, security, legal, accounting, and other workers, were the two areas employing a large number of these females.

Even with more people said to have entered the labour force in April, the total number of persons reported as being outside the labour force was 725,700. These persons are those 14 years and older who were neither employed nor unemployed during the period.

"Males outside the labour force declined by 1.2 per cent while females declined by 3.9 per cent" the data revealed.

President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Michael McMorris, in reacting to the data, said it represents a new low, which spells good news for the country especially since it likely means that more people than ever before were now earning an income.

"Commendations go to the Government in managing the economic environment to induce this outcome, and to the private sector for actually creating the jobs. Such low unemployment is, however, not without its challenges as workers for some industries will be very hard to find — and that can impact viability in those sectors," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Further expressing concern about the high number of persons still outside of the labour market, including those of prime working age, McMorris called for more training and motivation to get them involved.

"Hopefully, through inducement and training we will be able to motivate some of those citizens to re-engage with employers in the various sectors that are looking for workers. One of our priorities going forward should now be to dramatically lower the number of persons outside of the workforce," he said to the Business Observer.

Echoing similar sentiments, Metry Seaga, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), said that in light of the continued complaints of labour shortage coming from the business community, that problem backed by lower levels of unemployment is a good problem for us as a country to have.

"I'm happy that our unemployment is at the lowest it has ever been at…certainly in my history. This is very good news as it means more people are now earning a wage. Despite this, I do however realise that there can be further problems based on issues concerning the availability of labour, which has started already, which could mean that as a country we may have to start looking at the possibility of the importation of labour when and where it is required," he said.

Opposition spokesperson on Finance Julian Robinson on the other hand said that while he would never question the 4.5 per cent, issues surrounding the quality of jobs and the large number of persons outside of the formal workforce was in need of urgent assessment.

"Very low unemployment is good but there are too many Jamaicans who fall into the category of working poor and who earn just enough to survive," he stated, noting that the country remains trapped in a low wage, low tech and low growth model.

"We need greater investments in education and training to lift the productivity of the workforce and to allow more of our citizens to command better paying jobs where they can generate more value added and higher salaries," he said to the Business Observer.

Efforts to reach Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke for a comment on the latest out-turns were not successful.


Source: Jamaica Observer