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Experts doubt drop in jobless rate
Members of the T&T labour, business and economic sectors are viewing with scepticism statistics compiled by the Central Statistical Office and released yesterday by the Government Information Services Ltd (GISL), claiming that unemployment has declined. The statistics, sent in a GISL press release, said unemployment dropped from 6.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 4.9 per cent for the same period in 2011.
The release further disclosed that the labour force has declined from 618,800 persons in 2010 to 611,600 in 2011. Senior economist at Republic Bank, Dr Ronald Ramkissoon, said he was suspicious about the origin of the statistics. Noting he has not been privy to the report, he said such information was usually released by the Central Bank or the Central Statistical Office (CSO).
Ramkissoon also said it would be a “little unusual” for unemployment to decline. He recalled the drop in production at Trinidad Cement Limited which resulted in a fall in construction, the major absorber of employed people. He said based on the last Central Bank economic survey, there was little evidence of growth in T&T. “There is the expectation there would be a one per cent growth by the end of 2012,” he said.
Ramkissoon said there had been little growth because there had been little direct foreign and domestic investment and Government’s capital investment. Asked about the Government’s rejection of the all-foreign group of investors, M Falcon Ltd, in the development of Invaders Bay, the he said: “I don’t know what lies behind all that but we need investment from every sector so long as it is legal.”
Banking, Insurance & General Workers’ Union president, Vincent Cabrera, said he was not sure of the validity of the GISL release, claiming it does not reflect reality. “It is difficult for me to accept that unemployment fell when nearly every week groups of workers are losing their jobs,” he added.
Cabrera said there was great job insecurity among thousands of contract workers in the state sector who were being told to reapply for their jobs but were not sure of re-employment. As far as he knew, he said, there was no fall in the labour participation rate. “If the labour force declined, it means people are no longer looking for work or there has been massive migration,” he added.
Former president of the Greater Chaguanas Chamber of Commerce and present member, Garvin Seemungal, said he would be happy if unemployment fell since it would kick in the multiplier effect. Seemungal said based on the current economic tailspin, however, he was a little sceptical of the latest figures.
Finance Minister Larry Howai at a recent function said the liabilities of the financial sector have been expanding and that was a testimony to the robustness of T&T’s financial system. That financial state of affairs was moving T&T to emerge as the financial capital of the Caribbean, the Minister said. Minister in the Ministry of Finance Rudy Indarsingh said he needed statistical evidence that workers were losing jobs every week before he could comment.
“Of course unemployment has dropped,” he said, backing the CSO figures. Indarsingh said the statistics would have been based on empirical data obtained from the relevant ministries. Asked if the country recorded economic growth, he said: “We are poised to be moving in that direction with the fiscal package that will come for the new fiscal year. The Prime Minister has said there will be a focus on creating jobs and economic growth.”
The CSO figures said while there was an overall decline in the labour force, there was an increase in craft and related workers and elementary occupations. It also said there was a significant drop in the unemployment rate in the construction industry.
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