By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive yesterday said the increased unemployment rate contradicted the government’s recently-touted economic gains.
Jeffrey Beckles, the chamber’s newly-appointed top executive, called for the labour force survey to be conducted on a monthly basis rather than the existing six-month frequency as the latter only provides a “snapshot” of The Bahamas’ unemployment woes.
“I think it would be easier for us to subscribe to a month-to-month examination of our employment data,” he explained, “so that we are reviewing it in a bit more of real time, and the decisions that need to be made can be made.
“It’s a bit of a snapshot, and that snapshot doesn’t always give you the benefit of analysing the data, as we ought to be able to - in partnership with government - to say what is good and what is not so good. The timelines of how we do our reports and when we do our reports are things we need to look at.”
The Bahamas’ unemployment rate increased by 60 basis points over the six months to November 2018 despite the creation of just over 2,300 jobs, growing from ten percent to 10.7 percent. This increase was driven by the unemployment rate in New Providence climbing from 10.1 percent to 11 percent.
Mr Beckles said the increased unemployment rate contrasted with the government’s recently-touted economic gains. “Another concern that we have is that on one hand unemployment numbers went up, but on the other hand we are reporting a lot of success,” he added.
“We’ve heard about double digit increases in tourism arrivals, a strong Christmas and New Year period for hotels, and that the last six months have been strong, yet still unemployment is up. For the average person out there it doesn’t translate into positive news because, on one hand, we’re celebrating, but on the other hand our unemployment numbers have gone up.”
Mr Beckles also questioned the drop in Grand Bahama’s unemployment rate during the six months to end-November 2018. “We are all aware that Grand Bahama has been a destination synonymous with decline, but to come out and say that they are progressing and adding new jobs, it’s difficult to understand when you don’t know where those job gains have taken place,” he added.
“We live in an environment where there is strong emphasis on the accuracy of data. Another concern for us is how the data is being collected, and from whom. We need to look at how we interview, who we interview and the fact that we need to narrow our definitions of what it means to be employed, unemployed, underemployed etc.
“The Bahamas needs to move to a monthly analysis; whatever it takes, that’s what we need to do. That job report report is critical to our review of our economy. We can’t get round that. When you talk about analysing the impact on the economy it is so critical that that information is in real time. It behooves us to to become more focused on not just collecting data, but how and when we analyse the data so that it gets out of this six-month snapshot.”
Employment gains were driven by the private sector employees, where the total workforce increased by 3.8 percent to 135,135 persons compared to May. Additionally, the number of self-employed persons stood at 32,475, an increase of 11.9 percent since May. Overall, 210,560 people make up the employed labour force, while some 25,135 Bahamians remain unemployed.