Total employment in Cayman grew last year, but the number of women with jobs declined by some 800 people, leading to the female unemployment rate rising from 3.5 percent in 2016 to 5.5 percent in 2017, according to recently released records from the Economics and Statistics Office.

Female employment has mostly grown steadily since 2010, increasing from 17,144 women with jobs to 19,543 last year. However, male employment has grown faster during that period, from 17,839 in 2010 to 21,313 last year – a record high for male employment.

Overall, the number of people employed in Cayman also reached a new record high 40,856 last year, an increase of 445 people from the 40,411 employed in 2016.

The labor force grew from 42,196 in 2016 to 42,941 in 2017, and the number of unemployed people increased from 1,785 in 2016 to 2,085 in 2017. The fact that the growth in the labor force outpaced the growth in employment contributed to the unemployment rate growing from 4.2 percent in 2016 to 4.9 percent last year.

The growth in the labor force – which is the number of people employed or actively looking for jobs – was largely driven by more participation by Caymanians, with the Caymanian labor force increasing from 19,931 in 2016 to 20,774 in 2017. The growing Caymanian labor force led to the Caymanian unemployment rate growing from 7.1 percent to 7.3 percent.

The non-Caymanian labor force grew by 0.7 percent and the non-Caymanian unemployment rate rose from 1.2 percent to 2.1 percent, while the number of permanent residents with the rights to work in the labor force declined by 5 percent and the unemployment rate for that category rose from 3.8 percent to 4.4 percent, according to the ESO.

The number of men in the labor force and the number of employed men grew from 2016 to 2017.

Government has attributed the uptick in the unemployment rate to a healthy economy encouraging people to reenter the labor force.

“The overall unemployment rate increased to 4.9 percent in 2017 from 4.2 percent in 2015 and 2016 as more people returned to the labor pool to seek employment because of improvement in employment prospects,” Finance Minister Roy McTaggart said at the Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Forum in May.

However, the female labor force actually fell from 21,143 in 2016 to 20,681 last year. The number of unemployed women grew by about 400, from 747 in 2016 to 1,138 in 2017.

The labor force participation rate also fell for all categories of residents, with the total participation rate dropping from 83.4 percent in 2016 to 81.4 percent in 2017. This means that there were more working-age people who stopped looking for jobs 2017 than there were the year prior.

Projecting over the next several years, the Economics and Statistics Office predicted that the unemployment will fall to 4.4 percent by the end of this year, and then to 4.2 percent in 2019 and 4 percent in 2020. The labor force will continue to increase at historically average rates during that time, the ESO stated.

“The demand for labour is expected to track the GDP growth forecasts with an increase in employment opportunities expected from planned development projects,” the ESO stated in its economic report. “Over the medium-term, new employment is also expected from the Islands’ hotel industry with the addition of new facilities coupled with the increase in arrivals.”

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