Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Household incomes under pressure amid pandemic job losses

Published:Friday | April 16, 2021 | 12:18 AM

Statin Director General Carol Coy.
Statin Director General Carol Coy.

Jobs continue to elude Jamaicans and household incomes were slashed amid an overall contraction in the economy, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica reported on Thursday with the release of its most recent quarterly Labour Force Survey.

The number of persons out of work hovered at 116,100 in the January survey, or 15,700 more than a year earlier. Consequently, the unemployment rate rose to 8.9 per cent, which was 1.5 percentage points higher than the rate of 7.3 per cent for January 2020.

“A little over half of the households in Jamaica experienced a decrease in income since March 2020, so this is about 488,000 households,” said Statin Director General Carol Coy at her latest press briefing on Thursday.

“When assessing the impact of COVID-19 on individuals, approximately 46.2 per cent, or 551,900, of employed persons indicated that since March 2020, they have experienced either a complete loss of income or partial loss of income from their employment,” she said.

Statin has been monitoring the impact of COVID on the labour force since its survey conducted in July 2020.

The total labour force shrank by more than four per cent to 1.31 million. Male jobs were shed at a faster pace under the pandemic, but men still hold the edge on jobs overall.

The unemployment rate for males in January 2021 worsened by 1.6 percentage points over the course of the past year to 7.6 per cent. For females, the rate worsened by 1.4 percentage points to 10.4 per cent, Coy noted.

Statin conducts the Labour Force Survey quarterly – each January, April, July and October – through which it measures the number of persons employed, unemployed and those outside the labour force.

The employed labour force in January fell by 74,300 or 5.9 per cent to just under 1.195 million persons.

“Male employment is down 4.9 per cent and female employment by 6.9 per cent. The industries which would have been impacted would be similar to those affected by gross domestic product, which are accommodation and food services; arts, entertainment and culture; wholesale and retail trade; and transport,” Coy said.

The Jamaican economy declined by 8.3 per cent during the October to December 2020 quarter due to the sustained negative impact of the pandemic. The services sector was heaviest hit, down by 11 per cent.

“When we look at the annual GDP for 2020, the economy declined by 9.9 per cent and this was due to the services industry, which was the most impacted by the pandemic,” said Coy.

The services sector incorporates tourism activity, where the drag on the economy has been most pronounced under the pandemic.

The inflation rate for March was 1.0 per cent, calculated by the movement in the consumer price index, or CPI, basket. The main driver was a 4.6 per cent increase in the grouping of housing, water and electricity. Rental for housing actually rose by double digits to 13.1 per cent, which Coy said represented a recovery, as during the onset of the pandemic there was a reduction in rental rates.

“The increase we are seeing is a return to pre-pandemic levels,” she said.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com