Labor force survey to start Sunday

The government’s Economics and Statistics Office will start its annual labor force survey on Sunday, calling on random households across the Cayman Islands, estimating unemployment, household size and population.

The survey is set to take four weeks, “barring bad weather,” said ESO Director Maria Zingapan, and will serve as a foundation for policymakers, business owners and the general public.

“Especially at this time, when employment is a hot issue, we’d like an update on the unemployment rate,” she said. “It’s important as an indicator on the size of the labor force, whether the rate among Caymanians has increased or dropped, so it is in everybody’s interests, not just for the government, but for the country.”

Beginning Oct. 6, trained interviewers will fan out across the three islands to speak to householders. Each interviewer, according to an ESO statement, is under a secrecy oath, obliged to keep information confidential.

“No information is ever entered which would allow anyone to be able to link the data with an individual respondent,” said one official. “All interviewers carry a photo identification, which should be worn for easy visibility, and respondents are advised to request identification from any interviewer before sharing information.”

Ms Zingapan said the projected four-week schedule could be extended by “one or two weeks,” depending on weather and other factors. Interviewers, she said, generally make calls after working hours, when residents are likely to be home.

The results of the survey will not be available, however, until March next year.

“There are a lot of things to code,” she said, referring to the collation of data, including gender, age, industries, household size and employment status. “It takes a while. Because the numbers determine [government] policy, we have to be very careful.

March, she said, was the ESO’s traditional release date for the survey, although the office “currently has a forecast of a 6.1 percent unemployment rate,” a widely known public number.

She cited several unemployment statistics, however, saying “structural unemployment” related to marketplace requirements and people who qualified as “long-term unemployed for a variety of reasons.”

She said the “natural unemployment rate,” an economic constant, ran between 2 percent and 2.5 percent, “something you will always have, no matter what,” explaining that those figures obtained even in economies that claimed “full employment.”

Finally, she described “seasonal unemployment,” familiar to the tourism industry, which affects hotels, restaurants, tour and water sports operators, and a host of related businesses.

“Even in the best of times,” Ms Zingapan said, “you will have unemployment.”