Half a mil don't want to work
More than 50,000 Jamaicans lost their jobs last year and it is not clear how many of this number are looking to find new employment or have given up on the labour market.
The latest data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) indicate that more and more Jamaicans are opting out of the job market despite being in the prime working years of their lives.
This is being compounded by a sharp increase in the country's unemployment rate as persons struggle to find jobs.
The STATIN data for 2009 show that 743,300 people were outside of the labour force at October last year, up from 682,900 for the corresponding period the previous year.
This represents an increase of 60,400, or eight per cent, more Jamaicans who decided to move out of the country's labour force in the 12-month period.
All persons 14 years and older who are not classified as employed or unemployed are considered to be outside the labour force.
This includes people who are not looking for work, those not available for work, others who do not want to work and persons who are incapable of working.
Students in the majority
Fifty-eight per cent of the persons outside the labour force in October 2009 were in the 14-19 age group, with the majority of that number being students and people 65 years and over who have retired.
However, STATIN reported that the age group 25-44 showed the largest increase in people outside the labour force last year.
Just under 34,000 people between the ages of 25 and 44 who should be making valuable contributions to the country's development opted out of the labour force last year.
The vast majority of those are residents of rural Jamaica which has been ravaged by the shutdown of the bauxite industry, the fall-off in the sugar industry and the closure of many small business.
The main reasons persons presented for being outside the labour force were that they did not want to work (464,500) or that they were at school full-time (192,000). These were also the main reasons reported by STATIN in October 2008.
The vast majority of the people outside the labour force (77 per cent) are short of academic qualification and did not pass any examination.
In the meantime, STATIN is reporting that the country's labour force stood at 1.2 million last year, with 11.6 per cent unemployed.
The male unemployment rate was 8.1 per cent in October 2009, up from 7.4 per cent the previous year, while the unemployment rate for women was 15.9 per cent up from 13.8 in 2008.