Unemployment continues to fall at record rate

With 47,000 more Jamaicans said to have entered the employed labour force up to July this year, the country’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5 per cent as it continues to trend downward and at record out-turns.

The latest figure, as reported by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) on Wednesday, was 2.1 percentage points lower than that of July 2022 when the rate stood at 6.6 per cent. It also follows April’s record out-turn when it first dipped to the historic 4.5 per cent rate.

In July 2023, the number of unemployed people said to be in country was 62,200, which was 27,500 fewer when compared to the same period last year. The total number of unemployed males was 24,600, down 34.6 per cent while that for females was 37,600, down nearly 28 per cent.

“The male unemployment rate was 3.3 per cent — a decline of 1.8 percentage points and the female unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent — a decline of 2.4 percentage points,” Statin’s Director General Carol Coy said in presenting the findings of the July Labour Force Survey (LFS) fielded between July to September of this year, with June 18-24 being the reference week.

The youth unemployment rate, which also decreased by 3.5 percentage points, stood at 13.2 per cent in July 2023 when compared to the 16.7 per cent at which it trended during the same period last year. This brought the total number of unemployed youth (ages 14-24) down to 25,600 or some 9,000 people fewer.

Coy, in further outlining the data extracted from the LFS 2023, said that the total labour force, which grew to 1.37 million people, was 19,600 more than that of July last year and represents about 65.6 per cent of the country’s population, ages 14 years and older.

On the other hand, the employed labour force, which increased to 1,315,100, welcomed approximately 47,100 more people than it did in July 2022 after a larger number of males became employed to the ‘Elementary Occupations’ group as more females joined the ‘Service Workers and Shop and Market Sales Workers’ and ‘Clerks’ occupational groups. The largest increase in employment by industry was, however, seen in the ‘Real Estate and Other Business Services’ and ‘Construction’ sectors, which increased by 14,000 and 8,900 respectively.

“Relative to the increase in the size of the labour force, most persons who gained employment were previously unemployed. Females accounted for 54.6 per cent of the increase, growing 25,700 to total 605,200 while the number of employed males increased by 21,400 to 709,900,” Coy also said, while pointing to work hours of 35 hours and above for more than 90 per cent of all persons employed during the survey week.

Data from Statin’s report which also indicated that as more people gain employment and fewer remained unemployed, resulted in decrease for those considered to be outside of the labour force or not economically active, of which students and the elderly account for the bulk of the numbers.

“There were 722,800 persons outside of the labour force; this represents a decrease of 16,800, compared to the 739,600 in July 2022. There were 296,700 males and 426,100 females outside of the labour force. Among these people approximately 70 per cent were persons in school, incapable of working or 60 years and older,” Coy said.

Census still in progress

Meanwhile, Statin, which functions as the country’s chief data collection and data processing entity, in responding to questions about the progress of the ongoing census or population and house counting survey which began in September 2022, said that efforts remain underway to have the very important national activity completed.

The census which was first stalled by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was to have commenced in 2021. However, since its roll-out late last year it has missed few deadlines, after being plagued by a number of new challenges, including recruitment, data collection, high attrition and other administrative issues.

“We are in the process of wrapping up the census and we are ensuring that every single enumeration district [ED] is covered,” said Statin’s Deputy Director General Leesha Delatie-Budair, but did not give information about the progress or expected timeline for full completion of the demographic activity.