Quarterly unemployment surveys to come

Quarterly unemployment surveys to come
Statisticians released the latest Labour Force Survey, which shows that unemployment nationally rose marginally from 10 per cent in May 2018 to 10.7 per cent in November 2018. (PHOTO: Royston Jones Jr.)

Statisticians say new design will be launched after population census


NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Department of Statistics intends to change the design of its Labour Force Survey to provide quarterly reports on the level of joblessness in the country as opposed to twice annually, according to Senior Statistician Cypreanna Winters.

The change in framework is expected to take place next year following the population census.

The department is preparing to conduct the population census in May 2020.

It is expected to take three months.

“The census is the frame for all the new surveys, and so this survey design ends when the census survey begins,”

“Consideration has been given after the census to do quarterly [surveys].

“…We have to do a new design.

“These surveys are not done ad hoc.

“They are designed, and so the design has a life of 10 years.

“We have to wait until the design is completed.

“This design is in place until 2020; after that, we do the new design for the labour force for the next 10 years. We will do it with the quarterly survey format.

The department released its latest labour force survey on Monday for the reference period October 28, 2018, through November 4, 2018, more than two months later.

The report showed that unemployed rose nationally from 10 per cent in May 2018 to 10.7 per cent in November 2018.

During a press conference at the department on Monday, Acting Director Leona Wilson said the department recognizes the demand for more frequent surveys.

The department has been criticized in years past over its labour force survey not providing a true reflection of unemployment trends, due primarily to fluctuations in temporary jobs around the times the surveys have been taken.

This was the case during the April survey in 2015, 2016 and 2017, when temporary jobs were generated as a result of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, a three-day event.

Last year, the department made the distinction between temporary jobs, which it referred to as vulnerable workers.

However, it did not provide the number of vulnerable workers in the latest survey.

As of May 2017, there were 16,370 vulnerable workers in the labour force, according to the department.

On Monday, Winters said vulnerable workers will be tabulated in the upcoming May survey, which she indicated is a more substantive survey.

In August 2017, the department indicated that it wanted to produce more frequent labour force surveys, but said it has been unable to do so because of “constrained physical resources”.

She made the comment during the release of the labour force survey on August 13, 2017, for the reference period April 24-30, more than three months later.

“We definitely would like to do It more often, but the problem is we are constrained by physical resources,” she said at the time.

“In order to get this particular survey out, we had to work overtime.

“I have instances now where persons are overworked and sometimes, they get sick.”

The government committed to proving the department the resources and autonomy to improve the “timeliness” and “reliability” of information provided to the public.

To date, that commitment in the Speech from the Throne, has not been reflected in the Free National Movement’s (FNM) budgets for 2017/2018 or 2018/2019.

In the 2016/2017 budgetary period, the former administration budgeted $3.1 million to the department.

The FNM provided an additional $79,000 to the department ($3,179,000) in the 2017/2018 period.

For the 2018/2019 period, the government has allocated $3,612,011 — an increase of $432,111.

The department is responsible for issues unemployment, labour force and gross domestic product growth numbers, among other key national statistics.

The government plans to increase the Department of Statistics’ budget with $3.7 million in 2019/2020 and $2.79 million in 2020/2021.