By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
FINANCE Minister Peter Turnquest said while the government is pleased the national unemployment rate has dropped to 9.5 percent, its goal is to drive numbers even lower by securing stronger and more broad based growth for the economy.
The ministry said this is the lowest unemployment rate in 10 years.
Department of Labour officials announced on Friday the improved unemployment rate, down 1.2 percent from the 10.7 percent rate of November 2018.
At the time of the survey in May, the rate in New Providence was 9.4 percent and Grand Bahama was 10.9 percent. Both islands showed unemployment decreases down from the previous rates of 11 percent and 11.9 percent respectively.
However, Abaco’s unemployment rate increased from 7.7 percent in November 2018 to 9.3 percent in May.
According to senior statistician Cypreanna Winters, private sector employees drove employment gains. This category of the sector increased by 1.8 percent to 137,605 when compared with November.
The statistics were gathered from 3,500 people in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco.
Mr Turnquest, who is also deputy prime minister, said: “Bahamians can feel encouraged by this positive news that unemployment improved significantly. This strong jobs report is one of the most important indicators that the policies of the government are working for the Bahamian people. Now that we have two years of employment data we can really assess the overall performance from 2017.”
He added that since May 2017 there had been a net increase in the number of employ by nearly 15,000, and a decline in the number of persons in the vulnerable employment segment of the labour force of 1,625.
The fact that strong job growth took place even as the number of contractual and temporary jobs fell significantly is a sign that Bahamians are finding more permanent jobs, he said.
“While the government is pleased to see the unemployment numbers are trending down, it is the ambition of the government to accelerate growth and drive these numbers even lower. We are not resting on our laurels for one second. Our goal is to secure stronger and more broad-based growth for the Bahamian economy that will result in increased job opportunities and economic benefits for all Bahamians. We will continue investing in small and medium-sized businesses as a key means of driving improvements in unemployment.”
Officials have said the employed labour force rose by 4,330 in May when compared to November 2018 and reached to about 215,000 persons. On a year-over-year basis, employment grew by 6,635 people or 3.2 percent.
Additionally the number of discouraged workers in the country declined by two percent showing greater confidence in the economy among job seekers, Mr Turnquest said.
The improvements in Grand Bahama, in particular, were significant as the number of discouraged workers fell by 5.4 percent, he added.
“In the November 2018 report, we observed a decrease in unemployment in Grand Bahama to 11.9 percent. In May 2019, the trend has continued, as unemployment in Grand Bahama dropped further to 10.9 percent. This is really positive news for Grand Bahama, which has been no stranger to economic hardship. To support the economic rebound, the government will continue efforts to stimulate new private sector investment. We want to see the success we are having with job growth in Grand Bahama reproduced consistently across all of our Family Islands,” he added.
The hotel and restaurant sector experienced the greatest increase since May 2018, of 24 percent, while the community, social and personal service industry, which includes the civil service, police service and domestic service continued to be the country’s largest employer accounting for 35 percent of the workforce.
Labour force statistics show that women were more likely than men to be unemployed. Men also dominated each of the nine industrial groups surveyed.
These included agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail, hotels and restaurants, transport, storage and communication, financing, insurance and real estate, community, social and personal services.
“Although the unemployment rate dropped for women to 9.9 (percent) in May, we continue to see gender disparities in the unemployment numbers with women being more likely than men to be unemployed. In fact, despite their levels of educational attainment, unemployment is higher for women with a secondary or university education compared to men. On the other hand, men with no schooling or incomplete secondary education are employed at a lower rate than women. Further investigation is needed to understand the different challenges experienced by men and women seeking employment, and the policies needed to address these challenges,” said Mr Turnquest.
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