THE unemployment rate rose to 16.3 per cent in April this year, up almost two percentage points over year earlier figures, according to figures released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) yesterday.
The figures showed that unemployment among youth, aged 14-24 years, rose to 38.5 in April 2013 from 34.1 per cent in April 2012, a 4.1 percentage point increase.
Observers said the figures were indicative of the despair being felt across the country by persons seeking work, despite the increase in the labour force recorded since last year.
The announcement triggered a statement from Generation 2000 (G2K), the professional arm of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), that the figures were "a clear indication that the Government's economic policy was failing.
G2K President Floyd Green said that the 16.3 per cent unemployment figure was the highest in more than a decade "and even worse than when the country was faced with the global financial meltdown".
Women seem to be faltering badly in the competition for jobs. The survey showed that the number unemployed in April 2013 was 215,000, an increase 30,200 (16.3 per cent), with 19,500 males added to the group, and 20,700 females added since April last year. There was a 12.4 per cent increase in the number of unemployed males and a 19.1 per cent increase in the number of unemployed women.
According to STATIN, unemployment among women for April 2013 stood at 21.3 per cent compared to 12 per cent for men.
STATIN said that the incremental increase in the unemployment rate was caused by an additional 38,900 (three per cent) persons joining the labour force, but that only 8,700 of them were able to find jobs, adding 30,200 persons to the unemployment roll.
The male labour force has increased by 15,600 (2.2 per cent) and the female labour force by 23,000 (four per cent). So, while the number of men in the labour force moved from 700,500 to 716,100, the number of women rose from 583,100 to 606,300.
However, in terms of people finding jobs, the biggest increase was an area which attracts many more women than men -- clerks -- although the six per cent increase to 100,900 was not quite enough to make a significant impact on the number of women seeking work. The grouping plant and machine, which mainly attracts men, had the largest decline, dropping from 62,000 persons to 57,000.
In terms of percentage increase, "wholesale and retail, repair of motor vehicles and equipment", which include young people employed in wholesale/retail shops and in garages, jumped by 17,000 or 7.8 per cent. However, manufacturing declined by 7,200 persons or 9.2 per cent.
In its release yesterday, G2K said that with 38.5 per cent of youths seeking work unable to find jobs, the situation was now beyond crisis level.
"Generation 2000 is reiterating its call for the Government to take urgent steps to tackle youth unemployment, including addressing the issues raised in the Doing Business Report; establishing the regulatory framework for a venture capital scheme; establishing a Youth Employment Policy and facilitate training initiatives to align youth skills with job opportunities," the G2K said.