Unemployment in The Bahamas has topped 40 percent, Director of Labour John Pinder said yesterday, as he noted that the government is spending roughly $1 million each week in food assistance.
“There’s a feeding program the government has going on,” he said.
“…The government just mentioned in a meeting yesterday, the prime minister said it’s costing the country $1 million a week to feed Bahamians.”
While Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said in June that unemployment could reach 40 percent, Pinder said that from what he can see, it’s already more than that.
“Percentage-wise, we are in the 40s,” he said.
He added, “As it relates to unemployment, I think it’s safe to say we are in the 40s.
“And until the economy rebounds or reopens, we will probably see the numbers increase.”
In December 2019, the unemployment rate stood at 10.7 percent, according to the Department of Statistics.
As the tourism industry, and eventually, the country, came to a standstill in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment numbers swiftly rose with widespread layoffs.
In early May, Pinder and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert MInnis both projected unemployment would hit 30 percent.
The latest numbers from the National Insurance Board indicated that more than 55,000 people were seeking unemployment benefits.
Pinder said the situation likely won’t improve anytime soon.
“As long as the ports are closed and the airports have no flights coming in, we’re going to see this,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we depend on tourism. I can only say to Bahamians that now is the time to look at having a second skill.”
When the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in The Bahamas, the government moved swiftly to implement a number of measures, including the closure of borders and banning of domestic travel, as well as curfews and lockdowns.
While cases had slowed and things began to open up, just over a week after the reopening of international borders, the country was hit by a second wave of infections, recording over 600 cases in less than a month.
The recent surge has seen the re-implementation of some of those stringent measures, with the entire archipelago currently under a two-week lockdown.