Job Growth

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2017-07-18

The economy has added jobs for the fourth successive quarter (Q) in the Q ended 31 March 2017, according to latest data available, from the Census and Statistics Department (CSD).

This is the longest sustained period of job growth, Q on Q, made at least since 2Q 2012, where such quarterly labour statistics on a contiguous quarterly basis has been made available on the CSD website.

CSD's website doesn't give 1Q 2012 labour statistics. Data showed that the economy added 223,507 new jobs in the 1Q of the current year, resulting in the unemployment rate falling by 2.38% (0.1 percentage point) to 4.1% while the labour force participation rate (LFPR) increased by 1.3% (0.7 percentage points) to 54.7% in the 1Q of the year over 4Q of last year.

The LFPR at 54.7% is the highest, encompassing 20 Qs, beginning with 2Q2012 and ending with 1Q2017, where such quarterly reports are available on a contiguous basis.

LFPR is the percentage of those who are 15 years and above who are either employed or are unemployed but who are seeking employment. A higher LFPR means and includes that though a person may be unemployed, he/she has not given up seeking for a job, an inference that the job seeker has expectations of finding a job, rather than simply giving up finding a job, because he/she has no hope in the economy.

It's a situation of 'hope' as opposed to 'giving up hope.' 'Hope' in this context may be defined that the job seeker has hope of getting a job because he/she has confidence in the economy. Whereas 'giving up hope' in a similar situation indicates that a person who's jobless, is not only bereft of a job, but has also given up seeking for one as he/she has no confidence in the economy.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate of 4.1% in 1Q2017 is the lowest since 4Q2012, i.e. after a gap of 17Qs where the country, in 4Q2012, i.e. during the regime of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, registered an unemployment rate of 3.9%. Nonetheless the LFPR in 4Q2012 was a 'low' of 53.5%, compared to a 'high' of 54.7% in 1Q2017, a gain of 2.2% (1.2 percentage points) since.

The brittleness of the 4Q2012 gain may be seen by the fact than in the following Q, i.e. in 1Q2013, joblessness jumped to 4.6%, a sharp 17.95% (0.7 percentage point) increase, though the LFPR increased to 54.2%, a 1.31% (0.7 percentage point) gain, Q on Q to 1Q2013, an indication that despite the sharp rise in unemployment by a mere Q, the jobless still had hope of getting a job, considering the relatively low unemployment levels featured a mere Q ago in 4Q2012.

In related developments, prior to the 1Q2017s, 223,507 job gain, Q on Q, such a steep job gain, Q on Q, was last seen in the Rajapaksa era, i.e. 17 Qs ago, vis-à-vis 4Q 2012 over 3Q 2012, where the job gain then was 290,267 (3.59%) to 8,365,075; resulting in the unemployment rate falling from 4.1% to 3.9%, 3Q 2012 over 4Q 2012 and the LFPR increasing from 52.6% to 53.5%, Q on Q to 4Q 2012.

But these gains were short lived, in that though 86,112 jobs were added in the following Q, resulting in the employment numbers growing by 1.03% to 8,451,187 in 1Q 2013, nonetheless, unemployment in the review period sharply increased from 3.9% to 4.6% in that brief pace of a Q.

An examination showed that on the eve of Rajapaksa's defeat at the 8 January, 2015 Presidential Poll, 4Q 2014 over 3Q 2014, saw that despite election handouts, 84,067 jobs were lost, resulting in the fall in the employment rate by 84,067 (0.99%) to 8,395,762; Q on Q to 4Q 2014. The unemployment rate in 4Q 2014 also increased to 4.4%, from 4.2% in 3Q 2014, while the LFPR decelerated from 53.2% in 3Q 2014 to 52.9% in 4Q 2014, an indication that the jobless were possessed with a sense of hopelessness in finding a job, thereby giving up search for employment.

Meanwhile, 1Q 2017 job gains were led by women. Of those 223,507 new jobs created, 213,660 were taken by women, whereas the men took only 9,847. The number of employed in 1Q 2017 comprised 8,230,207.

Of this number, women comprised 2,995,161 and men, 5,235,046. The gain in women employment may be due to garment factories employing more seamstresses in anticipation of the regaining of the GSP+ which became a reality in May.

Going forward, one may expect unemployment levels to fall further, led by more women gaining employment in the garment sector, thereby stabilizing the Yahapalana Government.

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