Largely affected by the rising price of commodities globally, coupled with prolonged supply chain disruptions, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin) has reported point-to-point inflation out-turns of 7.3 per cent for December.
Still in breach of the Bank of Jamaica's (BOJ) targeted range of four-six per cent, the variable showed slight improvement moving down from the 7.8 per cent previously reported in November and 8.5 per cent in October.
The central bank, in its monitoring of inflation, has previously said that it would continue to take the necessary actions required to ensure that the variable returns to the targeted range. So far, it has increased its policy interest rate to 2.5 per cent, the highest it has been since 2018. Just last week, global organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations and the ECLAC have also heightened calls for the containment of inflationary pressures on economies especially in light of downgraded growth outlooks exacerbated by the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a press briefing on Monday, director general of Statin Carol Coy said inflation in December was 0.8 per cent, mainly influenced by increases in the division housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels which went up by 11.7 per cent, food and non-alcoholic beverages up 4.9 per cent and transport, up 13.9 per cent.
Coy noted that the rises in the housing, water and electricity division were primarily driven by higher rates for electricity over the period while a rise in the prices of cereal and meat products was responsible for increases in the food division.
“These increases largely resulted from higher grain products on the international market as well as the impact of increased shipping cost. However, moderating these movements were the class vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas and pulses which declined by 11 per cent — mainly due to the increased supply of agricultural produce which led to lower prices,” she said, adding that a 15 per cent increase granted to taxi operators last year, which led to higher cost in fares along with the rising cost of petrol was what impacted movements in the transport division.
Statin, in its report on other key economic indicators, also provided update on the country's labour force in light of the findings from the October 2021 Labour Force Survey (LFS).
In October 2021, the country's unemployment rate fell to 7.1 per cent, 3.7 percentage points less than the 10.7 per cent recorded in October 2020. The unemployment rate for males was 5.5 per cent and nine per cent for females. The data show over 45,000 fewer people were unemployed relative to that of the comparative period a year earlier. A decline in the youth unemployment rate which also fell to 18.9 per cent in October last year also declined by some 9.3 percentage points when compared to the same period in October 2020.
According to the survey data, the total labour force in October comprised some 1.3 million people. Approximately 1.2 million people were within the employed labour force — an increase of 6.6 per cent or 76,600 more people than that in October 2020. Even as the bulk of the labour force is made up by males, the data revealed that females accounted for more than half or 43,700 of the increase seen in the employment figures.
Coy said that while the economy has been showing some signs of recovery and even as the overall numbers for employment remain below pre-pandemic levels, there were increases across some key industry groups.
“Three industry groups: 'real estate and other business services', 'construction' and 'agriculture, forestry and fishing' were the only groups to have surpassed their pre-COVID employment levels. There were 35, 400 more persons working in real estate and other business services, 9,300 more persons in construction and 4800 persons more in agriculture relative to October 2019,” she said, noting that together these three groups accounted for over 68.7 per cent of the increase in current employment figures.