Turnquest: Govt. encouraged by unemployment drop

6,635 jobs created since May 2018

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Noting that the Minnis administration has been working hard to stimulate The Bahamas’ economy since assuming office, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the government is encouraged by the declined in unemployment nationally from 10.7 per cent to 9.5 per cent, but despite the positive trend, the government will not celebrate just yet.

The decline in joblessness was largely attributed to job growth in the hotel and restaurant sector, and the more than 32,000 self-employed individuals.

Speaking to Eyewitness News Online, Turnquest said key to the decrease has been stimulating the private sector, the entrepreneurial sector in particular.

Since May 2018, 6,635 jobs were added to the economy.

Four-thousand, three hundred and thirty of those jobs were added to the economy in the six-month period between November 2018 and May 2019.

“We deliberately established a program to deal with that,” Turnquest said.

“We believe that is providing some tangible results for us, not only in the programs that we are sponsoring ourselves, but we are encouraging others to explore this idea of entrepreneurship.

“I think it is in fact bearing fruit.

“Additionally, we have been having a very successful tourism season over the last two years and that has contributed significantly to the growth in that sector, which anticipate is going to continue on, and we hope to build on as we bring new innovation to the sector with the cruise port additions, as well as the completion of construction at the Pointe, and the other projects that are on tap throughout the country.”

The minister projected that “strong numbers” in employment will continue over the next six months.

He acknowledged that the government still has a lot of work to do to bring down unemployment to acceptable rate, but said the data indicated “we are on the right path and we are creating, real sustainable jobs rather than temporary government jobs”.

Indicators of the economy’s performance have demonstrated sustained growth.

The economy grew by 1.6 per cent last year.

The government expects to sustain the steady growth over the next year.

“Things are looking okay,” Turnquest said.

“I wouldn’t want to celebrate yet because again we know that we need so much more in order to absorb all of the capacity that we have out there, but we are moving in the right direction.”

Unemployment dropped from 10.7 per cent in November 2018 to 9.5 per cent in May 2019.

The latest unemployment rate is also lower year-on-year.

In May 2018, the unemployment rate was 10 per cent.

According to the latest data, there were 15,440 people listed as unemployed in New Providence, a decrease from the 17,935 people listed as unemployed last November.

In Grand Bahama, unemployment fell from 11.9 per cent to 10.9 per cent with 3,590 people listed as unemployed.

Unemployment, however, increased in Abaco, from 7.7 per cent last November to 9.3 per cent with 1,355 people listed as unemployed.

There were 22,635 people listed as unemployed — 11,230 women and 11,405 men.

The total labour force was pegged at 214,890 — 102,730 women and 112,160 men.

Of that figure, 200,145 people were listed as permanent employed.

Another 14,745 were listed as vulnerable workers.

Youth unemployment was during the time of the survey was 20 percent.

Discouraged workers declined marginally over the six-month period, from 2,030 to 1,990.

As it relates to discouraged workers, Turnquest said he believes there is a lot more optimism, particularly in Grand Bahamas with projects such as the Grand Lucayan and new cruise port.

“I think again that has a lot to do with optimism with what is happening in Grand Bahama in particular,” the minister told Eyewitness News Online.

“I think here we are seeing certainly optimism about what’s happening, both with the hotel project and the cruise port.

“That is very positive thing because we do anticipate that both projects are going to, not only contribute directly to job growth, but also to stimulate the overall economy in Grand Bahama — both in terms of construction and other services.

“I think generally speaking, despite challenges that we face and there are still many, I think generally people are beginning to feel a little bit better about the economy and their chances and hopes of being successful in it.”