Jobless rate rises

Unemployment, particularly among Caymanians, rose in 2007, according to the Cayman Islands Labour Force Survey.

The yearly study issued by the Economics and Statistics Office also noted the islands’ overall population had increased by about 3.6 per cent between spring 2006 and fall 2007. However, the total labour force increased by just 1.4 per cent.

Overall unemployment went from 2.6 per cent in the spring of 2006 to 3.8 per cent in the fall of 2007. The survey estimated that 1,395 people were unemployed in the Cayman Islands as of last fall.

Unemployment among Caymanians who were in the labour force increased from 3.7 per cent in spring 2006 to 5.7 per cent in fall 2007. The labour force study showed 1,059 Caymanians were unemployed at that time.

Non-Caymanian unemployment went from 1.5 per cent in 2006 to 1.9 per cent in 2007. Generally, the figures for unemployed non-Caymanians are miniscule because expatriate workers are not allowed to stay on island if they don’t have a job.

The rise in overall unemployment coincides with what Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson said was predicted earlier this year. In fact, Mr. Jefferson said total unemployment in Cayman was forecast to rise to 4.1 per cent in 2008 and hit a high of 4.5 per cent in 2009.

The jump in Caymanian unemployment between the spring of 2006 and fall 2007 may be due in part to the surveys being done at different times of the year, according to the Economics and Statistics Office.

‘The unemployment rate is higher than in the spring Labour Force Survey 2006,’ the survey reported. ‘This could be due to a seasonal effect. The labour market in (the) Cayman Islands is probably better in the spring than in the fall.’

Mr. Jefferson has previously noted that the economic outlook in Cayman over the next two years is less positive.

The Cayman Islands forecast just 1.7 per cent growth in its gross domestic product for calendar year 2008, and 1.4 per cent growth for 2009. Meanwhile, inflation was expected to rise by at least three per cent in each of the next two years.

Although stay over tourism numbers have been steadily increasing, the island’s overall tourism business was expected to take a hit over the next two years as the effects of what’s generally acknowledged as a US recession take hold. US residents account for more than 80 per cent of the Cayman Islands stay over visitors.

However, during his budget outlook address to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Jefferson pointed out that Cayman’s situation ‘wasn’t all doom and gloom.’

Mr. Jefferson said the Department of Tourism was working hard to open other markets like Canada and Europe whose currency is now stronger against the fading US dollar.

He said the Cayman Islands financial sector remained strong and that several recent cuts in the US prime interest rate have caused local mortgage rates to drop.

The Cayman Islands Monetary Authority reported a near 15 per cent increase in the number of mutual funds registered here for the 12 months ended in March 2008. Forty of the world’s top 50 banks are currently licensed in Cayman and the Cayman Islands stock exchange also reported an increase in listings over the past year.