By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE country's unemployment rate has dipped below 10 per cent for the first time since the great recession, according to data released by the Department of Statistics, which listed employment increases in the civil service, tourism industry and construction sector as contributing factors.
The Labour force survey, conducted between April 24th and April 30th, reports the country's unemployment rate at 9.9 per cent – a 1.7 per cent decrease from the results of October's survey.
The decline came as 7,770 people gained employment while there was a decrease of 3,485 unemployed people.
According to the survey, the unemployment rate in New Providence was 10.4 per cent; in Grand Bahama it was 12.4 per cent and in Abaco it was 7.8 per cent.
No sector experienced a greater increase in employment than the civil service. During the budget debate in May, the Minnis Administration decried the substantial rise in civil service employees in the lead-up to the election and has pledged to take a much more conservative approach to public sector hiring.
"The private sector absorbed most of the new jobs since November 2016," Senior Statistician Cyprenna Winters said Friday. "However, when examined by industry, the 'community, school and personal service' industry which includes the civil service, police service and the domestic services posted a 29.1 increase in employment; hotels and restaurants posted a 26.2 per cent increase and construction posted 20 per cent increase."
The unemployment rate among youth (15-24) remained "considerably higher than any other age group," Ms Winters said, though "there was a slight decline in the rate from 25.1 per cent in November 2016 to 24.1 per cent."
The statisticians introduced a new category for public consumption in this year's survey: the vulnerable employment category.
"These workers as defined by the (International Labour Organisation) are less likely to have formal work arrangements, and more likely to lack decent working conditions and are often characterized by inadequate earnings and benefits," Ms Winters said. This category includes people who have contracts allowing them to work for limited durations.
8.2 per cent of employed people in the Bahamas fall into this category, the statisticians said.
"During the period 2012 to 2017, the share of workers in vulnerable employment was fairly stable and ranged from 7.0 per cent to 9.2 per cent of the employed labour force," Ms Winters said, adding: "The percentage of men int his category was higher, although the percentage points differences between men and women were fairly small."
The inclusion of this category comes after critics have for years complained that the surveys, typically done twice a year, are inflated by the inclusion of temporary job holders. In recent years the surveys have coincided with the presence of the carnival festival and hurricane clean-up efforts, events that often lead to temporary employment.
16,370 people are considered vulnerable in this year's survey, the most for a May survey conducted over the past five years, the statistics show.
The latest survey also shows that discouraged workers, people who did not look for work because they believed no jobs were available, have declined by 8.8 per cent.
The Progressive Liberal Party quickly moved to capitalize on the survey results, with PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts saying Friday that the statistics from 2012 to 2017 show that 39,505 jobs were added to the economy, 7,770 of which were added in the final six months of the Christie Administration. "Regardless of what is said about the PLP government under Mr Christie, those are the objective numbers and the unvarnished facts," Mr Roberts said.