United Nations report shows the Bahamas has the highest Jobless Rate in the Caribbean
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE BAHAMAS lost a total 8,870 jobs in its construction and manufacturing industries between 2007-2010 as a result of the global recession, a United Nations (UN) Body has reported, with per capita GDP only now beginning to recover after four successive years of decline.
The UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in its Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean report, said the Bahamas’ reliance on tourism had ensured the global recession’s impact on employment was “especially severe”, due to the immediate knock-on effects for supporting industries such as construction and distribution.
Breaking down the impact by industry, the ECLAC report said: “In the Bahamas, too, the global crisis affected all sectors except ‘other sectors’, ‘wholesale and retail’, and the combined agriculture and mining sector, whose share in total employment rose from 49.3 per cent to 52.3 per cent; from 14.5 per cent to 15.6 per cent; and from 4 per cent to 5.1 per cent, respectively.
“Similar to the pattern in Trinidad and Tobago, the construction and manufacturing sectors bore the worst impact, followed by the tourism sector.
“Between 2007 and 2010, these sectors’ share in total employment dropped from 12.4 per cent to 8.7 per cent; from 3.7 per cent to 2.8 per cent; and from 16 per cent to 15.5 per cent, respectively. During this period, the construction industry shed a total of 7,035 jobs and manufacturing lost 1,835 jobs.”
The statistics produced by ECLAC show that the construction industry’s share of total Bahamian employment dropped by three-and-a-half percentage points between 2007 and 2010. That position is likely to be recovering somewhat, though, given the start of the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project and spin-off effects for the rest of the sector.
The rapid construction industry decline is also likely to explain the relatively high level of male unemployment in the Bahamas, when compared to Barbados and Jamaica.
For instance, the male unemployment rate in Barbados, which started at 6.4 per cent in 2007, peaked at 10.1 per cent in 2009 and had fallen to 8 per cent by last year. In Jamaica, the male unemployment rate stood at 8.4 per cent in 2007, rose slightly to 8.5 per cent in 2009, and hit 9.2 per cent last year.
In contrast, male unemployment in the Bahamas was already higher in 2007, standing at 9.3 per cent for that year compared to just a 7 per cent female unemployment rate. While the women would catch up to their male counterparts, Bahamian male unemployment remained much higher than in Barbados or Jamaica, standing at 11.9 per cent in 2009 and 13.7 per cent in 2011.
“Barbados and Jamaica both show a large gap between male and female unemployment rates: In the first case, the gap increased from 2 per cent in 2007 to almost 4 per cent in 2011, and in the second, the female unemployment rate was almost twice the level of male unemployment over the entire period,” the ECLAC report said.
“By contrast, in 2007, in the Bahamas male unemployment was 2.3 percentage points higher than female unemployment, but the gap narrowed in subsequent years as female unemployment rose steadily.”
The Bahamas’ 2011 unemployment rate, of 13.7 per cent, was the highest of all Caribbean nations for whom data was produced.
“For the service-producing economies, namely, the countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica, the impact of the global crisis was especially severe as the slump in global tourism affected not only employment in that sector but also complementary activities such as construction and distribution,” the ECLAC report said.
“The sharpest spikes in unemployment during 2008-2009 occurred in the Bahamas, Saint Lucia and Belize, the first two of which are major producers of services.”
The ECLAC report also provided more evidence of just how Bahamian disposable incomes and living standards have been eroded by the recession, with per capita GDP having declined for four successive years between 2007-2010.
After a 0.1 per cent per capita GDP decline in 2007, the pace quickened to a 2.8 per cent fall-off in 2008, and a sharp 6.5 per cent plunge in 2009. Per capita GDP again fell by 0.5 per cent in 2010, before making a modest 0.8 per cent increase in 2011. Still, per capita GDP remains well below pre-recession levels.