Belize’s Unemployment Rate Rises to 4%: SIB Report Highlights Shifts in Job Market and Industries

Belize’s Unemployment Rate Rises to 4%: SIB Report Highlights Shifts in Job Market and Industries

Belize’s unemployment rate bumped up from two-point-eight percent earlier this year to four percent. That was one of the major takeaways from the latest Labour Force Survey conducted by the Statistical Institute of Belize. The SIB holds the survey twice a year, once in April and once in September to account for changes in seasonal employment. The SIB classifies unemployed persons as those who were out of a job but actively looking for one and were available to work if the opportunity presented itself. Just over seven thousand, five hundred and fifty people fit the definition of unemployed in September 2023. This was four percent of the Labour Force, which totaled over a hundred and ninety thousand. Diana Castillo Trejo, Director General of the SIB said that the agriculture sector was one of the areas that saw the most losses in terms of employment. She added that, despite the increase in unemployment, the figures indicate job opportunities are becoming more available and the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector continues to lure job seekers away from other industries.

Diana Castillo-Trejo, Director General, Statistical Institute of Belize: “The issue of difficulty in securing labor is not one that is unique to the primary sector, is not one that’s unique to tourism. Even the institute as an employer we have trouble now recruiting and retaining staff to do survey interviewing. So it’s across the board and I think it’s reflective of a number of things. I mean, one, you have seen that across all different types of categories, unemployment rates are lower. They were lower from last September, again in April, and then in October, to what we are accustomed to seeing. And so that already tells you that there are fewer people out there without jobs who are looking for work. Then we have the corresponding increase in different types of economic activity, the BPO’s being one of them. That is one of the employers that is pulling a lot of persons from this common pool that we dip into, the tourism industry dips into they are pulling a lot into that sector there. And so basically if you have more economic activity businesses are hiring more persons have more options in terms of where they want to work and so naturally they will gravitate away from the lower paying jobs if they can get higher paying jobs. But with respect to availability and I think maybe what you’re referencing is participation in the labour force. We are still at roughly about 57-58 percent. That tells you that a chunk of our working age persons are still not participating for various reasons.”

Castillo-Trejo also says that the bump from two-point-eight percent to four percent in unemployment is within expected ranges. She also explained that Belize cannot adequately compare unemployment rates with other CARICOM countries, since the SIB is using a different methodology.

Diana Castillo-Trejo, Director General, Statistical Institute of Belize: “April would be typically where we see the high for employment and September would be more on the low. And for employment and the differential between the two is usually between one and two percentage points. So what we are seeing is quite within the normal range of what we expect. So in terms of labor availability we have noted for several quarters now that one of the challenges that our agricultural industries are facing has to do with labor shortages, among other challenges. But this is not just a situation that is unique to agriculture, it is one that we are seeing across the board. Even the Institute as an employer has experienced this most recently with our census last year, in that, you know the increase in economic activity, increasing the number of available jobs has led to more options for persons who are looking for work. The decline in unemployment rate just by definition means that you have fewer people who are out there without work who are looking for work and so what this has translated into for many employers is that there is a difficulty in securing sufficient labor. I believe that most countries in the region have still not yet transitioned from the old definitions to the new. The transition that we made is in accordance with the established international standards. These are new recommendations that are issued periodically for the statistical community and we decided to transition as part of our efforts to improve methodologies. Our counterparts within the region will likely follow but many of them and I think most of them have still not gotten there as yet. But in terms of comparability with our CARICOM counterparts it might not be strictly comparable because of the difference in definition. However, the trends I believe are along the same lines and just in discussion with my counterparts within the statistical agencies of other CARICOM countries unemployment rates are trending in the sort of same direction. They’re seeing the same challenges securing sufficient labor for some of their industries. So direct definition for definition comparison perhaps not but the trends are consistent with what is happening within the region.”

The SIB’s data shows that female unemployment among females was four-point-five percent as compared to three-point-six percent for males.

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