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Rolle: Bahamian Unemployment Rate 'Not Out Of The Doldrums Yet'

By NATARIO McKENZIE Tribune Business Reporter nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net THE Bahamian unemployment rate now at 15.9 per cent is a clear indication that the economy has "not turned out of the doldrums yet," Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer's Confederation Winston Rolle said yesterday. According to the results of a Department of Statistics labour force and household income survey conducted in November 2011, "there was a noticeable decrease in the number of employed persons and an increase in the number of unemployed persons resulting in the unemployment rate increasing by 2.2 percentage points and thereby pushing the country's unemployment rate to 15.9 per cent." Both New Providence and Grand Bahama experienced an increase in the unemployment rate with the unemployment rate in New Providence being 15.1 per cent and in Grand Bahama, 21.2 per cent. Mr Rolle told Tribune Business: "We know of the challenges on Grand Bahama. I think it is in a lot of ways the signs of the times. The economy has not turned out of the doldrums as yet. Not by a long shot." He added: "Our economy relies heavily on tourism and financial services and while we have started to see some increase in tourist arrivals it's not as widespread as it needs to be." The results of the survey indicated that since the last survey conducted in May 2011, there was a less than one per cent increase in the size of the labour force which now stands at 190,445 persons. The number of women declined by 1.4 per cent while the number of men increased by 1.8 per cent accounting for the overall minimal increase. The participation rate for men increased marginally, 0.6 percentage points, while that of women fell by 1.2 percentage points. The survey noted that in New Providence the number of persons in both the labour force and the employed labour force was almost equally distributed among the sexes. In Grand Bahama, however, men outnumbered women in both the labour force and the employed labour force and were fewer in numbers among the unemployed. With regards to the number of unemployed persons Mr Rolle said: "It would be interesting to find out the expertise of these persons. We need to do a better job in this country of keeping better national statistics. We can't just keep numbers without identifying where these persons were employed and we can't just assume it was tourism and construction. We are not sure which industries are being affected and what the skill levels are of persons unemployed." Mr Rolle noted: "The US jobless numbers dropped slightly. We would like to hope that that is some sign of recovery in the US market that would make its way here." The data from the survey conducted in May of last year showed that a number of persons sought means of making a livelihood by engaging in informal sector activities. Results from the more recent survey suggest that a substantial number of these persons were not successful in their operations and therefore withdrew from the labour force or joined the ranks of the unemployed and in the case of the latter have contributed to the 2.4 per cent decline in the number of employed persons. The survey noted that in addition to the reduction in the number of persons engaged in the informal sector, which declined by 19 per cent, there was also a decline in the number of self employed persons. The latter, according to the survey, accounted for 14 per cent of the total employment in May but in November their share was reduced to 12 per cent. The survey revealed that New Providence experienced a decline of 13 per cent in the number of discouraged workers while the reverse was the case in Grand Bahama where the numbers increased by 42 per cent.

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