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Halkitis highlights positive in jobs report

Opposition leader Minnis disagrees
Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 24, 2013

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The government is not satisfied with the rise in unemployment but is optimistic about job growth prospects, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said yesterday.

Halkitis was contacted for comment after the Department of Statistics released the 2013 Labour Force Survey.

The department said while there was an increase in employed people, the number of unemployed people is greater. That survey revealed that the national unemployment rate jumped to 16.2 percent from 14 percent.

Halkitis said in spite of the rise in unemployment, the numbers also show that people are hopeful about employment opportunities and that jobs have been added to the economy this year.

While he spoke to reporters shortly before the unemployment figures became public, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he is hopeful of an economic turnaround by next year.

“I’m trying to encourage people to be optimistic, to wait a bit longer because next week I’m going to make a major announcement on another set of work in The Bahamas that will again create another new economy in a different part of The Bahamas,” Christie said outside the House of Assembly.

“Hopefully in the next calender year, the economy will begin to shift in our favor and people will see that their patience was not in vain.”

However, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said the higher unemployment figures showcase the government’s “failure” to create the 10,000 jobs in the first year that were promised on the 2012 election trail.

The labor force survey was conducted in May with a reference period of April 29 to May 5, 2013.

The numbers show that the unemployment rate on New Providence rose to 15.9 percent from 13.1 percent and the rate on Grand Bahama jumped to 19.5 percent from 18 percent.

The Department of Statistics said the unemployment rate is higher because of a 33 percent decline in discouraged workers. This category consists of people who are willing and able to work but did not seek employment.

“This means that persons who had previously given up looking for work have now reentered the workforce with hopes of finding employment,” Halkitis said in an email to The Nassau Guardian.

The Golden Isles MP said that the figures represent the unemployment situation several months ago, adding that hundreds of jobs have been added to the economy since then.

“An example is the roughly 600 jobs that have been created in Bimini from the last measurement to the present time,” Halkitis said.

“The report states that there was growth in both the number of employed and unemployed persons. “Therefore, jobs were created during the period November 2012 to May 2013.

“We share the optimism of those who have reentered the workforce.

“We realize that there is much work to do in the area of job creation, and we are encouraged by some positive movement in the months since the survey was conducted, and we remain committed to doing what is necessary to put more Bahamians to work.”

Minnis said the government sold Bahamians a “false hope” on jobs and that the unemployment rate among youths is “alarming”.

“They brought in a lot of cronies, hired a lot of retirees, pensioners... at the same time, we have all of these young people who are looking for jobs,” Minnis said.

He also hit out at the government for hiring foreign consultants instead of finding innovative ways to employ young people.

However, Minister of Labour Shane Gibson criticized Minnis for making the rise in unemployment political.

“We for our part continue to work day and night to make sure that all is done to turn around an economy that was left in shambles by the FNM,” Gibson said.

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