These days, finding workers is a tough job.
In the coming weeks, the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers' Association (TTMA) plans to put out full page advertisements looking for workers for their various member companies.
TTMA president Dominic Hadeed tells the Business Express that the organisation is trying to calculate how many workers are needed in their various industries.
He pointed out in a telephone interview last Friday that manufacturers who were involved in construction-based type activities had no choice but to reorganise their industry in the face of a weak economy and lack of jobs in the past two years.
"The truth is we just can't find workers," he said.
Hadeed agreed with the Central Statistical Office's (CSO) data released last week which showed a decline in unemployment to 4.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011. Hadeed was indifferent to where the data originated or for what period it encapsulated as the reality for his manufacturers is that they are simply short of workers.
The CSO just may have gotten its data right, he said.
He conceded that if there was high unemployment and manufacturers couldn't find workers then they'd literally be scratching their heads.
As it stands now, he explained, the numbers show that workers are hard to find in the labour market.
"We just can't compete with the salary of an Unemployment Relief Worker (URP) for a part of the day," he said.
Hadeed is of the view that Government's social relief programmes should be "accordion-type" programmes but because they were sustained programmes which offered shorter hours and more money- they actually put pressure on companies looking for workers.
Last week, the CSO issued a statement on the fourth quarter of 2011 showing an increase in the labour force from 609,500 persons for the third quarter, 2011 to 621,000 for the fourth quarter of 2011. The CSO noted that the increase in the labour force between the third and fourth quarters of 2011 occurred mainly among Craft and Related Workers, where the labour force increased by 8.1 per cent and Elementary Occupations where the labour force increased by 3.9 per cent.
The unemployment rate fell from 5.2 per cent for the third quarter of 2011 to 4.2 per cent for the fourth quarter of 2011.
Prior to last week's data from the CSO, the last unemployment data available was for the last quarter of 2010 which pegged unemployment at 6.3 per cent. For 2011, about 15,000 jobs were lost in construction.
In its July Economic Bulletin, the Central Bank observed: "In the absence of official labour statistics beyond Q3 2011, more recent information paints a somewhat mixed picture. The number of retrenchment notices filed at the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development for the first half of 2012 was 13.3 per cent lower than in the same period of 2011. At the same time, there are reports of restructuring of some manufacturing companies within the chemicals and iron and steel industries in the first half of 2012 leading to a net loss of jobs in these firms."
In analysing the unemployment figure, economist Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir warned last week that unemployment data can be deceptive and mask structural flaws in the economy.
"We need to determine people who receive full-time and people who receive part-time jobs," he told the Business Express.
Mahabir argued that if there's an increase in employment, then more jobs have been created than lost and he believes that the ques-tion is how much of those jobs were generated by a growing economy and how much were government-created jobs.
The Government-generated jobs, he explained, would simply have created a lot of temporary employment in the state sector.
But what's worrisome to Mahabir is that T&T's economy remains in secular decline so that increased employment simply means that more people are sharing in a smaller wage pool.
He said that real GDP has declined to about 95 per cent of what it was in 2008.
"The average income is falling," he said.
This means the average income per worker has fallen which has a direct relationship with the standard of living.
"The national income has declined absolutely. The full employment is not reflected in an increase in national income or the living standard of the population," he said in an interview.
Further, Mahabir explained that more employment does not necessarily mean more productivity.
"With full employment, you must have economic growth. But there's no economic growth which flies in the face of productivity of labour," he observed.
Other areas of concerns for him include the "formal" economy and the "informal economy", the status of youth unemployment and the discouraged worker syndrome which leads to people leaving the workforce.
Mahabir said it would be very interesting to see the CSO data to be able to dis-aggregate it because the data masks more than it illuminates.
What the cSo said
For the full year 2011 the total number of persons in the Labour Force in 2011 was 611,600. This represents a decline of 1.2 per cent from the level recorded for the year 2010 of 618,800 persons.
The decline in the total labour force was observed mainly in the age groups 15—19 and 20—24, which declined by 13.7 per cent (2,800 persons) and 10.6 per cent (8,200 persons) respectively. These decreases were somewhat compensated by increases of 6.1 per cent in the age group 35—39 and 1.8 per cent in the age group 30—34.
An analysis of the annual data by occupational grouping revealed declines in the annual labour force of Craft and Related Workers and the labour force of Elementary Occupations between 2010 and 2011. Craft and Related Workers fell by 2.4 per cent from 101,300 persons in 2010 to 98,900 persons in 2011 while Elementary Occupations declined 2.1 per cent , from 125,900 persons in 2010 to 123,300 persons in 2011. On the other hand, the size of the labour force of the Professionals Occupation Group increased 9.2 per cent between 2010 and 2011 moving from 27,100 persons in 2010 to 29,600 persons in 2011.
Analysing the annual data for 2011 by industry reveals that the size of the Labour Force of the construction industry declined 6.5 per cent from 107,700 persons in 2010 to 100,700 persons in 2011. The industry group: Wholesale and Retail Trade, Restaurants and Hotels also recorded a decrease in the size of its labour force over the same period moving from 114,800 persons to 111,000 persons or 3.3 percent. These decreases were somewhat moderated by a significant increase of 8.6 per cent in the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Business Services industry group, where the size of its labour force increased to 56,600 persons in 2011 from 52,100 persons in 2010
The unemployment rate for 2011 was 4.9 per cent. This compares favourably with the unemployment rate of 5.9 per cent in 2010.
The unemployment rate, (which is calculated as the number of unemployed persons as a percentage of the total labour force) declined over the period, for both males and females. The Male unemployment rate fell from 5.2 per cent in 2010 to 3.9 per cent in 2011. The unemployment rate for females also showed a decline, falling from 7.0 per cent to 6.3 per cent over the same period.
The unemployment rates for the 15—19 and 20—24 age groups continue to be the highest of all age groups. Significantly however both age groups recorded larger decreases in their unemployment rates. The unemployment rate for the 15—19 age group in 2011 was 15.3 per cent, down from 20.1 per cent in 2010. Likewise, the unemployment rate for the 20—24 age group fell from 12.4 per cent in 2010 to 11.3 per cent in 2011. The age groups 30—34 and 35—39, which have significant shares of the Total Labour Force, also fell from 5.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent and from 4.1 per cent to 3.1 per cent respectively between 2010 and 2011.
Most of the broad occupational groups showed declines in unemployment rates. The unemployment rate for Elementary Occupations was 8.4 per cent in 2011, down from 10.4 per cent in 2010. The rate fell because of a 2.1 per cent fall in the Total Labour Force that was more than compensated by a 20.6 per cent decrease in the number of persons unemployed which fell from 13,100 persons in 2010 to 10,400 persons in 2011.
The unemployment rate for Craft and Related Workers, the second largest occupational group, also declined from 6 5 per cent in 2010 to 5 2 per cent for 2011. Here again, a 2 4 per cent decline in the Labour Force of Craft and Related Workers was more than matched by a 22.7 per cent fall in the number of unemployed persons in that occupational grouping. Also noteworthy was a 1.5 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate for Clerks which saw the rate falling from 7.9 per cent in 2010 to 6.4 per cent in 2011.
An analysis of unemployment rates by industry revealed a significant drop in the unemployment rate of the Construction industry, where rates fell from 12.9 per cent in 2010 to 10.4 per cent in 2012. The size of the labour force in Construction fell by 6.5 per cent but was accompanied by a 24.5 per cent decline in the number of persons unemployed for this industry resulting in the 2.5 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate.
The Community, Personal and Social Services industry recorded a fall in its unemployment rate from 4.1 per cent in 2010 to 3.6 per cent in 2011. The Wholesale and Retail Trade, Restaurants and Hotels industry also saw its unemployment rate drop from 6.3 per cent in 2010 to 5.9 per cent in 2011.