The Statistical Institute of Belize’s latest surveys show that Belize’s unemployment rate fell and inflation was at 0.5 percent in 2013. Director General of the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), Glen Avilez, held a press conference on Wednesday, January 29th, to explain the data collection process in its Labour Force Survey and calculation of inflation.
Avilez explained that the Labour Force Survey is conducted twice each year, in April and September. The labor force is made up of all individuals of working age who are employed, available and looking for work. In September of 2013, 5,910 households were randomly selected to be a part of the survey. According to Avilez, responses were obtained from almost 90 percent of the selected households which covers over 14,500 individuals 14 years and older. 64 percent of those individuals were in the labour force. The others are students, housewives and others who were not available for work.
The survey shows that unemployment fell from 16.1 percent in September of 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2013. There were 1,500 more employed persons and the unemployment rate fell by almost 2 percent in every district except in Stann Creek. Stann Creek and Orange Walk Districts were the only districts in which there were less people working than in 2012. According to SIB, this may be due to “lower economic activity in the sugar, citrus and tourism industries” in the month of September. The women and youth categories registered the highest unemployment rates. Unemployment rate among women in September 2013 was 11.5 percent, down from 22.4 percent in 2012. According to the SIB, “youth continued to be unemployed at nearly twice the national rate” and “females between 18 and 23 made up the majority of unemployed youths”. The April 2013 survey showed a similar overall decrease in the unemployment rate which stood at 12.1 percent compared to 14.4 percent in 2012. Therefore the average unemployment rate for 2013 was 13.1 percent which is down from 15.3 percent in 2012.
The inflation rate is calculated based on the change in prices of 260 goods and services normally purchased by households. According to Avilez, the base period is February, 2011; therefore, the consumer price index is based on cost of goods at that time. There was a 0.5 percent inflation rate in 2013, which is down from 1.3 percent in 2012. According to SIB, “the increase in prices accelerated in the last five months of 2013”. During the year there were increases in the prices of food, electricity, hospital accommodation fees and transportation. Food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 1.5 percent, the most significant increases were in beef (up 12.6 percent) and rice (up 8 percent). Electricity rate rose from 41.81 cents per kilowatt hour to 48.86 cents per kilowatt hour in January 2013. Hospital accommodation fees rose by 3 percent and transportation cost increased by 1.7 percent. Belmopan recorded the highest inflation rate at 1.4 percent, while Dangriga recorded the lowest where there was no change. Prices fell nationally for clothing and footwear, health insurance and motor vehicle insurance premiums.
Avilez was asked if he is prepared to handle the criticism that will come from producing a report that may be seen as favourable to Government. His response, “It is occupational hazard.”