Job situation prospects dim, say business leaders
Prospects for improvement in the jobs situation are dim, according to the Island's business community.
But there are indications that an increasing number of Bermudians are reinventing themselves in response to the economic downturn.
In the wake of findings of a survey that 11 percent of registered voters had lost their jobs in the last 12 months, Chamber of Commerce head Ronnie Viera says that little improvement in the employment picture should be expected in the next six months.
Most employers expect that the recession will last well into next year and are being extra cautious about filling vacancies when they do arise, according to Bermuda Employers Council President Keith Jensen.
Not only is the peak tourism season over, but “business and the economy have to show positive signs of growth before companies will begin to increase staff and that is not yet happening,” Mr Viera said.
“Nothing has changed recently to stimulate the required growth and we have just recently heard of other companies laying off employees due to a drop off in business.”
Mr Viera added that increasing the residential population is key to getting the economy moving again — echoing an argument made by critic Larry Burchall and former Premier Sir John Swan.
“Our economy requires more people contributing into it and unless something is done to bring more people to the Island, working and spending money, the situation is not going to improve anytime soon.
“While people may be getting tired of hearing the same point, the facts clearly support it, so it will continually be made.
“Having said that, I understand that the business model for the Insurance industry has changed so when things do improve, they are unlikely to get back to where we were during the peak years.”
While Government has launched a series of training initiatives to improve job skills of Bermudians, supported by industry, Mr Viera said that businesses need demand for their services and products in order to be able to afford to hire new people.
Mr Jensen agrees. “The pressure of declining local sales markets takes its toll as firms cut costs,” he said.
But he added that it could have been worse were it not for payroll tax relief granted in certain industries.
“Confidence remains low which affects investment decisions which in turn affects employment in the economy,” Mr Jensen added.
Retail, construction, hospitality, insurance and education were the hardest hit sectors in the last 12 months, according to the latest survey which was conducted for The Royal Gazette by research firm MindMaps.
Seven jobs were lost in the retail sector, six each in hospitality, insurance and construction, while four were lost in education.
Jobs were also lost in a variety of areas such as accounting, travel administration, child care, courier service, Government, IT, a law firm, stevedoring services and the medical field.
The survey which asked a sample of 400 Bermudians whether they had lost a job in the last 12 months was conducted between September 11 and September 16.
Respondents had to be registered voters who said they were likely to vote. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
Eleven percent of respondents said they had lost their jobs within the last year and of those, 88 percent had not found a new one, according to the survey.
Those that did find new jobs found them in banking, child care, real estate, Stevedoring Services, teaching, and tourism. Two new jobs were part time and one was described as a “hustle”.
At 15 percent, the youngest voters (18-34) were most likely to report that they had lost a job in the last year, four points above the overall figure of 11 percent.
They were closely followed by 45 — 54 year olds, 14 percent of whom said they had lost a job during the period, and 55 — 64 year olds (13 percent).
Women were more likely to have lost a job (13 percent) than men (eight percent). And 12 percent of black respondents said they had lost a job compared to ten percent of whites.
In July last year the survey showed that 14 percent of registered voters had lost their jobs in the last year and 80 percent were still out of work.
But in December, 11 percent of those polled said they had lost a job in the last 12 months, and 92 percent had not managed to find a new one.
And in March this year, the survey found that 11 percent of the respondents had lost a job in the last year and 94 percent had remained jobless.
The survey also reported that 82 percent of registered voters are concerned about the direction of Bermuda's economy, and almost half said the economy/unemployment is the biggest issue facing the Island.
Despite the gloomy jobs statistics, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation is seeing an increasing number of unemployed locals seeking advice on starting their own businesses, according to Michelle Khaldun, its executive director.
And the Bermuda College reports that this year may be seeing a growing number of people retooling as a strategy to beat unemployment.
Tawana Flood, the director of the College's division of Professional and Career Education said that it was still too early in the new semester to provide concrete statistics but “several Bermudians have made a commitment to investing in themselves and have returned to the campus to retool and retrain with the intention of securing employment whether it be computer literacy or learning a new skill that is relevant in today's workforce”.
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