Unemployment rate at 13.7% in September 2020, economy contracts 13.2% in the third quarter, consumer prices down 0.5%, and both imports and domestic exports down 29.1% and 5.5% respectively in October 2020.
Today, the Statistical Institute of Belize published its latest statistics on the consumer price index, external trade, 3rd quarter 2020 gross domestic product, and September 2020 labor force survey.
Consumer Price Index
In October 2020, the Statistical Institute of Belize conducted the first round of price collection using its updated Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket1. This new basket was derived using detailed data on household spending obtained from the 2018/19 Household Budget Survey. It represents a more current list of goods and services that households in Belize frequently purchase and is an improved representation of consumer spending patterns. For the month of October 2020, the All-Items Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 100.0. This was an overall decrease of 0.5 percent when compared to the 100.5 recorded for October 2019. This does not indicate that all prices decreased during the period. Rather, it reflects the fact that notably higher prices in the ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ and ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ categories were balanced out by lower prices in ‘Transport’, and ‘Clothing and Footwear’, resulting in the marginal decline of 0.5 percent3.
In October 2020, Belize imported goods valuing $131.4 million. This represented a 29.1 percent or $53.9 million decrease from the same month last year. Merchandise imports for the period January to October 2020 totaled almost $1.3 billion, representing a 20.2 percent or $328.5 million drop from the same ten-month period last year, when imports totaled $1.6 billion.
Total domestic exports for October 2020 amounted to $24.9 million, down by 5.5 percent or $1.4 million from the $26.3 million recorded for October of 2019. Merchandise exports for the period January to October 2020 totaled just over $325 million, down 9.9 percent or $35.9 million from that same period last year, when total domestic exports were valued at $360.9 million.
The Statistical Institute of Belize’s Gross Domestic Product estimates for the third quarter, July to September of 2020, indicated that the country’s overall level of economic activity declined by 13.2 percent when compared to the third quarter of 2019. The total value of goods and services produced within the country for the period stood at $578.9 million, down $87.8 million from $666.7 million produced in the third quarter of 2019
Preliminary results from the Statistical Institute of Belize’s most recent Labour Force Survey (LFS) reveal that, for the month of September 2020, the national unemployment rate was 13.7 percent. For this round of the survey, refined definitions were implemented for classifying the employed, unemployed, and underemployed, in accordance with a resolution of the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS). The September 2020 LFS will now serve as a benchmark for future Labour Force Surveys. Having been conducted during the
ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this round of the LFS also measured the impact of the pandemic on the labour force.Click the following link to read more: Labour Force Survey, September 2020
Re: Oct 2020 CPI & Trade, Sept 2020 Labour Force, 3rd Quarter GDP
#546802 12/10/2005:20 AM12/10/2005:20 AM
And so while unemployment is a huge social issue, the major economic issue is the continued contraction of Belize's gross domestic product. It was a sharp downturn in the first and second quarter, and that trend continued in the third quarter, when the country's overall economic performance was down by 13.2%, when compared to the same period last year:
Jacqueline Sabal - Statistician II, SIB "For the third-quarter months of July to September 2020, Belize produced goods and services totaling 578.9 million dollars. This represents a decrease of 87.8 million dollars or 13.2% when compared to the third quarter of 2019. For the first 9 months of 2020, the country's GDP was estimated at 1,878.5 million dollars. This was a decline of 316.2 million dollars or 14.4%, from 2,194.7 million dollars in the first 9 months of 2019. This significant decrease in the country's level of production was the result of prolonged dry weather, combined with the devastating economic effects of COVID-19. The pandemic was especially detrimental to the services sector, during the second and third quarters of the year. If we look at what each sector contributed to the total GDP in the third quarter of 2020, the sector with the largest contribution was the tertiary sector, which accounted for 60.5% of production. The secondary sector accounted for 16%, the primary sector, 9.6%, and the remaining 14% was in taxes. Looking specifically at the third-quarter GDP at constant prices, over a 7-year period, the graph highlights fluctuations in the GDP, from 2015 to 2019, followed by a significant 13.2% decline in production in the year 2020. During this period, the tertiary sector declined considerably, overshadowing increased production in both the primary and secondary sectors. Looking first at the primary sector, output increased to 55.5 million dollars during the 3rd quarter of 2020. This represents a growth of 18%, or 8.5 million dollars when compared to the 3rd quarter of 2019. Within the primary sector, agriculture, hunting, and forestry grew by 17.7% or 7.5 million, totaling 50 million dollars. The fishing industry also increased by 20.5% during the quarter, as marine exports increased by 0.9 million dollars, totaling 5.5 million dollars."
Belize's primary and secondary sectors performed very well, but the tertiary sector was down by a cumulative 18.6%.
Labour Force Survey Says Unemployment At 13.7%
Tens of thousands lost their jobs due to COVID 19 - mainly in the tourism sector.
And today, the new unemployment figures were released - figures from September's Labour Force Survey.
It's a bi-annual survey of 3,000 households from across the country, but this time, because of social distancing, they had to conduct the survey through telephone interviews.
The bottom line? The new survey says unemployment is 13.7%. But, you have to put a big asterisk next to that relatively low figure. That's because to abide by international standards, the SIB has refined its definition of what it means to be employed, unemployed, and underemployed, and so, their results can't be directly compared to previous labour force surveys.
If they were using the old methodology, the unemployment rate would be 30%!
Here's what one of the SIB's statisticians had to say about the labour force survey's new definitions of what it means to be employed and unemployed:
Wendy Benavides - Statistician II, SIB "Employed persons are identified as those who worked for pay or profit for at least 1 hour in the reference week, or had a job, but were not at work for the reference week. One of the major changes in classifying the employed persons is the revision of persons working for goods produced for household use. For example, subsistence farmers who sold a portion of what they produced were previously classified as employed. However, using the refined definition, these farmers would only be classified as employed if they sold the majority of what they produced. The Toledo district is commonly known for subsistence farmers, and this is the district most affected by this refinement in the definition."
"Another revised key concept is unemployed. Unemployed persons are those without work, carried out activities to look for work within the last 4 weeks, and were available to start working within the next 2 weeks. In previous labour force surveys, persons were classified as unemployed if they were not working, but available to work. The key difference is the refined definition is that all 3 criteria are required to be classified as unemployed. Next, persons must now be actively looking for work within the last 4 weeks."
"Underemployed persons are a sub-group of the employed population who were previously defined as those working less than 35 hours in the reference week. Under the revised definition, 2 criteria were added. To be considered underemployed, persons must also be wanting to work additional hours, and available to work in the next 2 weeks. The concept of informal employment was first introduced in this round of the labour force survey."
"The unemployment counts, using the previous methodology is almost 3 times larger, compared to figures using the new definition. Under the previous, more relaxed definition, unemployment levels using the previous definition stand at 29.6%, compared to 13.7%, using the refined definition in September 2020."
From there, Wendy Benavides went on to discuss some of the trends they picked up on by looking at the group of Belizeans who are eligible to work, and those who are actually active in the labour force. They refer to the Belizeans who are legally allowed to work as the Working Age Population, and here's what their September survey revealed about the different groups of employed Belizeans:
Wendy Benavides - Statistician II, SIB "In September 2020, the employed persons were approximated at 145, 455 persons. This represents 86.3% of the labour. Unemployed persons makeup 13.7% of the labour force, or approximately, 23,175. Within the employed persons, you find the sub-group of persons called the under-employed. These people usually work less than 35 hours per week, and were wanting and available to work additional hours. This group represented 23.6% of all employed persons. Labour force figures by sex show that males accounted for 60% or 101,786 persons."
"Male participation levels in the labour force continue to be more than their female counterparts. Among age groups, participation among young females was lower compared to other subgroups. The highest levels of participation were seen among males 25 years and older at 74.2%. Preliminary results show that the national unemployment rate stood at 13.7% in September 2020. Belize district recorded the highest level of unemployment at 15.1%. Within this district, previous job holders lost their job in administrative and support service activities, accommodation and food service activities, wholesale and retail trade, and motor vehicle repairs. In contrast, the lowest levels of unemployment were seen in Orange Walk District, at 11.1%."
"The level of joblessness by sex indicates a share of about 11.6% of males, and 17% of females in the labour force were without work, looking and available to work. Women continue to be more prone to be unemployed."
And finishing up on the topic of the survey, the SIB also discussed a few other trends that they noticed when looking at employment by gender and by district:
Wendy Benavides - Statistician II, SIB "I will start with persons not working, who lost their job due to COVID-19, which was estimated at 38,909. 33% of these persons previously worked in the tourism industry, followed by 15% in wholesale and retail trade and repairs, and 12% in the community, social and personal services. About 77% were either sustained by a family member or depended on their own savings. 57.6% of persons who lost their job due to COVID were females. Overall, 28.2 % were persons aged 25 to 34 years. It is important to note that not all persons who lost their job due to COVID were classified as unemployed since about two-thirds lacked the criterion of looking for work. These persons were instead captured as persons out of the labour force. Though the reason these persons did not look for work was asked in the survey, as a probing technique, interviewers gathered that they were not active job seekers in the reference period, in hope of returning to their former job. Moving on to unemployed persons who lost their previous job due to COVID-19, 1 out of 3 jobs were lost in the tourism industry. 51.1% of unemployed persons in the Stann Creek District who lost their job due to COVID-19 worked in the tourism industry. Among age groups, 31% of unemployed persons who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 were 25 to 34 years. In terms of employed persons, 1 out ever 4 persons received reduced or partial payment from employment. In comparing average hours usually worked, usual hours worked pre-COVID-19 were 43.8 hours per week vs the 37.1 hours worked post-COVID-19. Most employed persons who previously worked in tourism, but lost their job due to COVID-19 reasons are now working in manufacturing. Examples of the industry are making of bread, tortillas or pastries for sale and making of clothing."
Labour And The Cost of COVID 19
Another interesting labor study that the SIB conducted was how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Belizean labor force from the period of March 2020, when the pandemic's effects were first starting to be felt worldwide, up until August 2020.
Here's what the SIB had to say about how badly the pandemic hit Belizean workers:
External Trade Trends
There are few more important pieces of news coming out of the
press conference that you should know about. The first is that the
country's imports for the first 10 months of the year were down by
20.1% or 328.5 million dollars. Here's more from the SIB:
Statistician Tiffany Vasquez also discussed the country's exports for
the first 10 months, which were down by almost 10%. Here's her analysis
of the figures from yesterday:
Belize's Potential Productivity
Turning briefly back to the SIB's Labour Force Survey, we told you how
the statisticians have amended their definition of what it means to be
unemployed. Part of their definition requires that if you lost your
job, you needed to be actively looking for work in order to be
So, if you were like the many Belizeans who were waiting to see if you
would get your job back after the COVID-induced financial crisis hit
the country, you weren't counted as unemployed. That sounds like
splitting hairs to us, but the SIB says that that the better
classification was that you were completely out of the labour force.
Yesterday, the Acting Director-General of the SIB said that the
unemployment numbers aren't as telling as the number of Belizeans who
aren't a part of the labour force. Those are the approximately 300
thousand+ Belizeans who are eligible to work, and according to the SIB,
44% of that figure - almost half(!) Are out of the labour force. That
means over a hundred thousand Belizeans aren't even making an attempt
to become employed! Here's how the Acting Director-General assessed
that point yesterday:
Diana Castillo-Trejo - Acting Director General, SIB
"As Mrs. Willoughby said, an unemployment rate of 13% doesn't change the
fact that you have a very large number of people who aren't working, for
whatever reason. Maybe they have other responsibilities, so, maybe - there
are things like the female participation rate that need to be looked at.
Why are our females not participating in the labour force? Is it that they
don't have support, for example, with childcare and other home
responsibilities? Is it the opportunities that are there are not the ones
where their skills and qualifications tend to match with them? Why are so
many people underemployed? If you look at the statistics on the
underemployed, persons who are underemployed work, on average, half the
hours a full-time person. They earn half the income of a full-time person.
That has serious implications for the incomes and well-being of households,
and a lot of people, more now than ever before, are employed as
underemployed persons. Informal employment, 40% of our employed persons are
informally employed. All of these things are things that give a bigger
picture of what is happening with our labour force and employment
situations. And so, I would want to caution that it's the easiest thing to
pick up on, that indicator, but there is so much more that underlies that,
which really gives a better picture of where our country stands in terms of
labour and employment, how we use our potential labour force, and how
productive we are and can be."
According to the SIB, there are 137,208 Belizeans eligible to work, who
are not actively seeking employment.
Tertiary Sector Reels from Lack of Productivity – Tourism Takes a Hit!
The hardest hit sector is the tertiary sector which accounts for the production activities of hotels, and restaurants, as well as wholesale and retail, and crude materials, personal goods, among others. According to the S.I.B., the sector remains the most severely impacted by COVID-19. The eighteen point six contraction of this sector resulted largely from the shutdown of the tourism industry which saw a decline of almost eighty million dollars for the third quarter. The S.I.B. says that the hotel and restaurant industry was virtually dormant, recording a whopping ninety-eight point three percent decline. Here’s more from the S.I.B.
Jacqueline Sabal, Statistician II, SIB
“The services sector remains the most severely impacted by COVID-19, recording a significant eighteen point six percent drop or seventy-nine point eight million dollar decrease across all tertiary industries bringing this industry total down to three hundred and fifty point one million dollars. Within this sector, the hotels and restaurants industry declined considerably by ninety-eight point three percent as borders remain closed due to COVID-19, bringing the total for that industry to zero point four million dollars.”
There were also decreases in the wholesale and retail trade down by thirty-one million dollars; transport and communication down by eight million dollars and government services down by half a million dollars.