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Two percent drop in GB unemployment

Unemployment of 15.4 percent in Grand Bahama has come as welcome, though slightly surprising, news to its business community — with the 2 percent decline not felt by those living on the island, say leaders.

“We have to consider this a snapshot,” said Peter Turnquest, president of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce.  “We have to consider if the government’s employment program had something to do with that number [and] we just have to know the basics before we can analyze this too much,” he said on Friday.

“But it’s fair to say overall in Grand Bahama, from where I sit and what I hear, that businesses aren’t really reflecting that kind of upswing.  I am a little surprised.”

His statements followed the Department of Statistics’ release of unemployment data for the year up to May of 2011.  It’s the first unemployment information provided to the public since 2009, following a decision to skip 2010 because of the census taken during the same year.

Turnquest said the update, nevertheless, made him optimistic about the future of Grand Bahama.  He said it would essentially mean that the island was indeed on its way to a full recovery from the economic downturn.

“Although it’s slow, we’re moving in a positive direction,” Turnquest added.  “It’s a fact that a lot of job seekers left Grand Bahama and looked for opposite elsewhere.  A good thing is this means they can support their families presumably and we look forward to getting this further down in the low digit number.

“In the meantime we have to continue to create jobs for those who are in that 15 percent because it is still an issue.”

Analysts around the country had expected an unemployment rate closer to around 25 percent.  In the last several months, the situation was exacerbated by layoffs at the Freeport Container Port and Our Lucaya, among other places.

In an earlier interview, Turnquest said the terminations were especially troubling, given there are no jobs prospects to absorb that number of unemployed persons.

“That’s a major blow for us,” Turnquest told Guardian Business yesterday. “Two hundred jobs is going to be very significant.

“I don’t know where we are going to pick that up.”

While there are several projects being talked about for the island, he said there is nothing concrete in the pipeline to generate any significant employment opportunities on the island.

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