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Unemployment rate falls, PLP dismisses stats

New survey: Minister Bob Richards

The unemployment rate has fallen by two percentage points, according to the latest government figures.

Total unemployment fell to 2,502 people in 2015 — from 9 per cent to 7 per cent.

And the number of unemployed Bermudians dropped by 936 people from 3,214 to 2,278 over the same period.

But the working population of the country is shrinking — down by 150 people to 35,328.

Between 2014 and 2015, there were 170 fewer males in the workforce, while there were 19 more women.

The number of working Bermudians and non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians fell by 651 people and 129 respectively.

But the number of expatriate workers grew by 136 people, while the number of permanent resident certificate holders increased by 43 people. At the same time, the youth unemployment rate dropped six per cent from 29 per cent to 23 per cent.

The news came in the preliminary report of the Labour Force Survey carried out by Government.

The survey found that median gross income also rose, up by $2,840 to $63,399 between 2014 and this year. Year on year, the unemployment rate among Bermudians fell by more than 29 per cent.

Broken down by ethnic origin, the unemployment rate was down 33 per cent among black people and up 1.3 per cent among whites.

The total labour force contracted by 3 per cent — 37,830 people in 2015 compared to 38,963 the year before. And the labour force participation rate fell by two per cent from 88 per cent last year to 86 per cent in 2015.

Finance Minister Bob Richards said: “The Government has been working hard to create the environment of greater business confidence and one in which inward investment would lead to projects that get Bermudians back to work.”

Mr Richards added: “We expect that large building projects, like the new hotel property in St George’s, will soon get under way.”

And he said the House of Assembly would hold a special meeting on Monday to introduce legislation “that will move the process forward”. Mr Richards added: “This is good news. It indicates that we have turned Bermuda’s economic momentum towards positive growth.

“But we also know there are people — families — still stranded on the sidelines of this progress and they tell us we’ve got to keep the pedal to the metal, keep pushing forward to create new jobs, new opportunities for more and more Bermudians.”

But Shadow Finance Minister David Burt said the figures showed the economy was still stagnating.

He said: “The total number of people working declined year over year — that can’t be a good thing. There are 150 fewer people working in Bermuda than there were last year. For the OBA to call this something positive, they’re either trying to mislead the public or they’re deluded.”

He added that the report “confirms that the Bermuda economy under the OBA continues to move in the wrong direction”.

Mr Burt added: “There are fewer people working in Bermuda, a sharp decline in Bermudians in the workforce. Furthermore the drop in unemployment is not a result of more jobs, but a result of Bermudians either giving up looking for work or leaving Bermuda entirely. This report is proof positive that the OBA’s economic policies are failing Bermuda and especially Bermudians.”

The survey used a sample of around 1,500 households and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent.