Unemployment rate drops to pre-financial crisis level

An aerial view of the business area of downtown George Town, Grand Cayman
An aerial view of the business area of downtown George Town, Grand Cayman. – Photo: Chris Court

Unemployment in the Cayman Islands has dropped to levels last seen before the financial crisis.

Estimates by the Economics and Statistics Office show the unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in April 2018, the lowest since 2007 when the rate stood at 3.0 percent. The unemployment rate was also significantly lower than the 4.1 percent seen a year earlier in spring 2017.

The figures are part of the Spring 2018 Labour Force Survey, carried out in April and May, which estimates less than 1,500 people are unemployed. The number of unemployed Caymanians declined to 1,118 or a rate of 5.3 percent, compared to 6.2 percent in 2017.

During Wednesday’s session of the Legislative Assembly on Cayman Brac, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Cayman’s economy had seen a consistent downward trend in Caymanian unemployment since it reached a peak of 10.5 percent in 2012.

“The most recent, Spring 2018 Labour Force Survey is proof of this – with Caymanian unemployment having effectively been halved since that peak,” he said.

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The unemployment rate among permanent residents with the right to work fell from 4.8 percent in spring 2017 to 2.9 percent, and that among non-Caymanians from 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent.

The decline in unemployment coincided with a 1.5 percent rise in the total labor force.

According to the estimates, Cayman’s economy employed approximately 42,700 people in April. This is about 2.3 percent more than at the same time in 2017.

The number of employed Caymanians grew even faster by 3.4 percent compared to the spring 2017 estimate. Premier McLaughlin said the figures mean that some “3,350 more Caymanians are now working and able to support themselves and their families than was the case before we took office in 2013.”

The Labour Force Survey estimates that, as of June 2018, Cayman’s population has reached 64,240, about 2.1 percent higher than 12 months earlier.

According to the report, the Caymanian population has grown by 1.8 percent to 36,154. Meanwhile, the number of permanent residents reached 5,971, up from 4,376 in spring 2017. The non-Caymanian population, in turn, is believed to be 4 percent lower than at the same time last year at just under 22,300.

New government department

Despite the figures, Mr. McLaughlin said, government must do more to deliver on its commitment to full Caymanian employment, “where any Caymanian able and willing to work is able to find employment.”

He said red tape, inefficiencies and ministerial misalignments in the past had prompted the creation of the new Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC) Department, which is due to launch in the coming year.

One of the improvements expected from this initiative is a new government function that will work with key private sector employers to plan for the long-term labor market needs of the economy.

Mr. McLaughlin said WORC would also be able to better support Caymanians in accessing the labor market and improve the work permit process “so that it is fair and transparent for the benefit of businesses and employees alike.”

In addition, a new accreditation system will be launched “that recognizes and rewards the many private sector employers who do play their part in employing and developing Caymanians.”

For those businesses that do not, the premier said, government is planning to introduce new legislation later this year that will lead to the creation of a Fair Employment Opportunities Commission.

“This commission will fill a void that exists and will provide Caymanians with a place to go to complain, and more importantly get action, should they believe they have been treated unfairly in the job market – including when passed over unfairly for promotion or not given an opportunity for employment,” he said.

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