The Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB) on Wednesday held another in its series of press conferences, this time covering four major batches of statistics: the monthly consumer price index; external trade; news on life expectancy for Belizeans, and the twice-yearly labour force survey.
We will start with the last, and compared to April of last year, unemployment is down slightly from 11.7% to 11.1%.
The labour force survey prior to this one was conducted in September and the rate of unemployment was 14.2%.
It would seem that by all accounts there are more people employed now than then, but there is a caution from SIB Deputy Director General Dr. Leopold Perriott in making the comparisons.
That survey showed a rate of 14.2% which was down from the all-time high seen the previous September of 16%.
Continuing trends include one-fifth of the unemployed population being youths, and nearly 4 times as many women as men without a job. The labour force is now over 151,000 persons over 14 who have a job.
The highest rate of unemployment is in the Belize District at 14.5%.
“The reason why I did not compare them right off from this September because of the seasonal reasons in the results. In September is when the unemployment rate is very high because the people are out without jobs and things. Then, as it goes to April, unemployment breaks down again”.
Agriculture and construction each added over 3,000 jobs in the year April 2012 to 2013, part of a total of over 10,000 jobs added; but over 2,000 were lost in the accommodation, food and wholesale/retail sectors as a part of a total 3,300 jobs lost.
Belizeans make just under $900 a month.
Turning to trade, Belize continues to suffer the ill effects of downturns in sugar, citrus and petroleum exports.
All three tumbled by as much as 30% each in the first five months of this year, but the first two are expected to rebound from slow starts.
As a result, Belize exported just $255 million worth of goods and imported nearly $800 million, the majority fuel and manufactured goods.
In addition to the usual importing partners like the United States, CARICOM and the European Union, there is a newcomer.
Statistician Javan Chavarria explains how a small island and former Dutch dependency has become practically Belize’s only fuel supplier as well as provides a forecast for sugar and citrus.
“In the sugar industry, we all know that it started late. That is why we are at a decrease at this point. But at the end of the year when the sugar crop is reconciled, then we are supposed to have those figures close to that of last year”.
Reporter: “Could you explain the imports from Curacao?”
Javan Chavarria: “We have this PetroCaribe agreement with Venezuela. So, we use ship Venezuela’s crude oil shipped to Curacao. They have a lease of a refinery in Curacao. From there the refined oil is sent to Belize”.
Belizeans of the current generation are living longer, on average, than their parents. Life expectancy at birth for Belizeans is up by five years to 73.7, and the good news is that once you have survived your first year, you will live to see many more. Demographer Jacqueline Small details how living longer may mean more out of pocket for certain sectors.
“With regards to life expectancy, the life tables are a challenge. For example, based on the number of the additional years of life that we can expect to live, for example increase or retirement age, just because we can get so many years of production. Another example of how life expectation can be used is in our Social Security Board which need to have an idea as to how long people are going to live to know how much benefits they will have to pay in a particular period of time, and to ensure that they have adequate resources to meet their obligations”.
But Belize matches or leads the trends in the region in this regard, as generally people are living longer and women are living longer than men.
Finally, the inflation rate has remained stable at 1.6%, with airfare prices, certain foods like fruits and vegetables, water rates, rent prices and hotel prices carrying the bulk of the increase. San Ignacio and Santa Elena residents are paying the highest rates at 2.8%, mostly for furnishing their homes.
Punta Gorda residents are at the other end of the spectrum at 0.8% rate of inflation. Increases of some vegetables are especially punishing with black beans up a third and red kidney beans, which we also export, up 22.5%.