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Inflation up, unemployment down, outgoing Statin boss reports

Consumer prices rose by 1.1 per cent for the month of July, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, Statin, has said.

It also emerged on Tuesday that a new director general is being sought for Statin, but the current head, Carol Coy, declined to comment on the matter, kicking questions instead to the portfolio ministry and its head, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.

The spike in prices, mainly food and utilities, pushed annual inflation higher for a third month to 6.6 per cent, compared to 6.3 per cent in June and 6.1 per cent in May, affirming forecasts by the Bank of Jamaica that inflation rate may temporarily rise again above the BOJ’s inflation target range of 4.0 to 6.0 per cent.

That’s after annual inflation had decelerated to 5.8 per cent in April. It brought with it optimism that the central bank might loosen its grip on key interest rates, but BOJ wasn’t convinced and opted to hold its signal rate steady at 7.0 per cent.

At the time, it reasoned that although the incoming data were generally positive, the inflation rate may temporarily rise again over the short term amid wage spikes and other pressures, but also held to its forecast that the return to the target range was likely to be achieved by December.

The central bank will make its next pronouncement on interest rates on Friday, but it’s not expected to change course.

On Tuesday, Statin reported that the July CPI, or consumer price index, was estimated at 130.8 points, compared to 129.5 points for the previous month, which resulted in an inflation rate of 1.1 per cent.

The price of ‘food and non-alcoholic beverages’ weighed heavily on the outcome.

Director General Coy said at a briefing that food inflation emanated mainly from increases in the prices of “vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas and pulses”.

“The prevailing drought conditions continued to adversely affect the supply of agricultural produce such as cabbage, Irish potato, tomato, sweet pepper and yellow yam, resulting in consumers paying higher prices for these items,” she said.

Meanwhile, Statin said there was a 1.5 percentage-point dip in the country’s unemployment rate in the April jobs survey, largely due to an increase in the number of females employed across the country.

The latest survey shows that there were 61,300 unemployed persons, 19,700 less when compared to April 2022.

The unemployment rate was estimated at 4.5 per cent, down from 6.0 per cent in April 2022, the last time a Labour Force Survey was published. Males continue to hold the advantage in the jobs market, with an unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent, compared to 5.7 per cent for women.

The youth unemployment rate also improved to 12.2 per cent, shaving 3.3 percentage points relative to April 2022. The female youth unemployment rate was 12.3 per cent, while that for male was 12.0 per cent. Similar to the other labour market indicators, the youth unemployment rate was influenced by the decline in female unemployment.

Overall, the number of employed females across the country grew by 5.1 per cent, or 29,700, while employed males increased by 2.0 per cent, or 13,600.

“The largest increase in employment was in the industry group ‘real estate and other business services’, while the occupation group ‘service workers and shop and market sales workers’ recorded the largest increase in employment,” said Coy.

“There was also increased employment in all age groups,” she said.

As at April, there were 1,373,800 persons in the labour force, an increase of 1.7 per cent year-on-year. The employed labour force numbered 1,312,600 persons, comprising 705,200 males and 607,400 females.

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