LAST WEEK, we defined unemployment and discussed the issues surrounding the different types of unemployment in Jamaica. Since then, we have received new data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) on the current unemployment situation and changes to the distribution of the labour force in the country.
How has the labour force and unemployment changed?
The labour force represents the number of persons who are either working or are actively seeking a job in the economy. The results from the labour force participation survey conducted by the STATIN indicated that the number of people actively working or seeking work increased by three per cent from last year to this year; 1,283,600 were either working or actively seeking a job at the end of April last year relative to approximately 1,322,500 this year.
Almost 40,000 new people have entered the labour force, which means that almost 40,000 new jobs would have to be created to keep the unemployment rate constant. However, only 8,700 new jobs were created, so a little more than 30,000 people who recently entered the labour force are without jobs, as well as those who were already without jobs in the first place.
This increase in the number of people actively seeking work, along with the country's inability to supply enough new jobs, has resulted in an increase in the unemployment rate from 14.2 per cent at the beginning of 2013 to 16.3 per cent currently. More men, as well as women, are actively seeking work in comparison to last year.
What is the unemployment distribution by age and sex?
More women than men entered the labour force since last year. The results of the survey conducted by STATIN revealed that 15,600 more men entered the job market, an increase of 2.2 per cent from 700,500 at the end of April 2012 to 716,100 at the end of April 2013. At the same time, 23,300 new women entered the job market, increasing from 583,100 in total last year to 606,400 at the end of April this year - an increase of four per cent. More women are unemployed relative to men. At the moment, 19.1 per cent, or 20,700 more women, are unemployed this year relative to last year, compared to just 12.4 per cent or 9,500 more men.
Unemployment among youth aged 18 to 24 is a cause for concern in the country, increasing from 34.4 per cent at the end of April last year to 38.5 per cent at the end of April this year. The unemployment rate for young men is now 30.1 per cent compared to females 27 per cent. The STATIN survey also revealed that a vast majority of the young unemployed are those students who did not pass any subjects in high school. Sixty-seven per cent of the unemployed youth are without basic qualifications as they did not pass any subjects.
What is the unemployment distribution by occupational groups and industries?
The number of clerks employed increased by six per cent from 95,200 at the end of April 2012 to 100,900 at the same time this year. There was also a 9.2 per cent increase in the number of people employed to the wholesale and retail and the repairs of motor vehicle and equipment industries; 7,200 more people are now employed to these sectors. Furthermore, the data show that the agricultural sector is improving: employment within the sector increased by 2.1 per cent from last year to this year - 201,700 were employed in the sector at the end of April 2012 compared to 205,900 at the end of April this year.
On the flip side, 4,300 less plant and machinery operators and assemblers are employed this year compared to last year, falling from a total of 62,000 last year to 57,700 currently.
What is going on overall?
World population level is increasing, prices continue to increase as well, the real wage of the vast majority is falling and unemployment continues to increase in many countries, including Jamaica.
Youth unemployment as well as unemployment among women is significant in Jamaica currently, which must be addressed in a sustainable manner if we are to move forward from here on. We cannot afford for the unemployment levels in Jamaica to reach that of Greece, Portugal or even Spain. Our strategic location in the Caribbean basin should offer added opportunities to provide meaningful employment for the vast majority of those seeking employment, if we gradually adjust the skill sets of the unemployed to suit the needs of the labour demand.
Dr André Haughton is a lecturer in the Department of Economics on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. Follow him on twitter @DrAndreHaughton; or email email@example.com.