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Uncovering real numbers and facts about jobs

Hard numbers: a graph revealing the alarming extent of youth unemployment across Europe

This is part two of an article looking at questions associated with Bermuda jobs, availability, skills, and experience.

Last week’s article understandably received a great deal of attention. Our current employment environment is a very real concern to many Royal Gazette readers and others.

Anonymous comments last week were wide-ranging, but generally fell into two very separate different camps — a summary of which I will discuss in context with other findings in part three.

We are looking for quantifying reasons, real current numbers, and factual answers in order to assist those who are fighting the challenges of unemployment and underemployment.

Part one simply listed the jobs categories in Bermuda, along with the percentage of non-Bermuda workers needed to fill these jobs.

Certain labour categories have traditionally had to hire outsiders. It is statistically impossible for a small country of 45,000 domestic nationals to produce enough accountants, risk specialists, actuaries, pharmacists, doctors, attorneys, IT technicians, chefs, portfolio managers, financial salespeople, brokers and so on.

Other categories are more general in nature attracting a broader segment of the population. See table No 3, Shortages of Bermudians (Status) in selected occupations, 2015. Bermuda Job Market Employment Briefs through September 2015, issued June 2016.

The same brief reported that the number of total employed has dropped from 37,399 (2011) to 33,319 (2015). A more significant number is the total job losses since 2008, some 7,024, which represents a drop of 17.5 per cent.

Following on with the additional research this week, my questions are these:

Businesses create, keep, and in expansion generate more jobs. Businesses also close when economic success is no longer guaranteed.

• How many local businesses have closed their doors over the last few years?

• How many local businesses have opened in the last few years?

• How many local businesses are in static holding patterns, not hiring, but hoping for uptick in activity to consider expansion?

Looking for some partial definitive answers, I went to the Bermuda Registrar of Companies to find their reports tracking incorporated companies, and partnerships, local, exempted and overseas. The registrar does not track local sole traders, sole proprietors doing business as, local partnerships, or self-employed unincorporated companies. That data could be gleaned from payroll tax data whereby owners open, or close, a payroll tax account with the tax commissioner. This would provide a clearer picture of the total number of active businesses at any one time.

The companies registrar carries a detailed statistical spreadsheet by quarter since 1999 listing existing company numbers, new companies added, and those liquidated or struck off the register — equalling the net active companies numbers at each quarter end. Their link is not provided as a security certificate expired (47 days) came up in the web search indicating the site may be unsafe. Google’s words, not mine, folks.

By year, I found the following information for local companies only (we will review exempt and overseas numbers in part three).

At year end 2007, there were 3,499 active incorporated Bermuda companies listed on the register; then, the net active numbers dropped downward to as low of 3,166 in 2011. The last three years for which data is available, 2012-2014, saw numbers climb back to substantially the same as 2007.

What else was missing? I could not find in a composite sense, how many of these local companies have employees as opposed to being holding companies (encapsulating real estate, for instance), or passive income generators only. Nor could I see the business cycle of companies spelled out — such as the percentage of new companies opening and closing in three years, or existing companies still operating 20 years later and related.

In a downturn economy, opening a new business can be tentative if consumers are watching every penny they spend.

My questions now turn to jobs themselves.

• How many new jobs have been created?

• How many full-time positions have been changed to part-time as employers have come under increased expense pressure to stay solvent? Would the Department of Statistics have access to this information through the quarterly payroll tax reports? I feel this is important information as it provides a picture on the cost of benefits to employees in a business. Part-time employees cost less in total benefits than full-time employees.

• Have the payroll tax proceeds per quarter dropped during the same time frame as the corporate registry tracking? This one may be difficult to ascertain since the payroll tax was recently raised. Perhaps, a request through the Pati Freedom of Information will reveal more meaningful data?

• Has the ratio of payroll taxes paid by domestic businesses to the amount paid by international business changed, and by how much?

Preliminary thoughts. Viewing numerous economic feeds every day, I wonder also whether this job quagmire is locally focused or is truly part of a global trend.

It certainly is no consolation to those here on island seeking employment to see other countries also experiencing significant unemployment problems.

A Bank of America survey reported “record numbers of college graduates are taking minimum wage jobs”, while Zero Hedge has said: “One in six prime-age men has no job.” You can read more by following the links at the end of this article.

Meanwhile, the graph accompanying this article shows Italy and the whole eurozone are still coping with massive unemployment, particularly among younger people. Again, follow the link at the end of this article for further information,

We need a vibrant, thriving economy to provide full employment. How are we going to accomplish this feat?

More detailed current information would be helpful, that is for sure. After all, how do we know where we are when we don’t know where we have been?

Anyone with additional data, feel free to contact me.

Sources and links:

• Zero Hedge. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-08-29/why-record-number-college-grads-are-working-minimum-wage-jobs

• Zero Hedge. “One in Six Prime-Age Men Has no Job,” the The United States White House Report, “The Long-Term Decline in Prime_Age Male Labor Force Participation.*


• Europe’s youth unemployment: https://www.statista.com/chart/3644/youth-unemployment-still-unrelenting-in-europe/

Further information was gleaned from the National Economic Report of Bermuda 2015.

See also last week’s article “Statistics show where the jobs are” on Sept 3, with sources listed.

Note that I have only accessed various government websites or culled through online reports to obtain information. At this point, there appears to be little pertinent data that is correlated across the employment spectrum.

Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders with multinational families and international connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Contact: martha@pondstraddler.com