472 registered as unemployed in 2018, 44 referred for jobs and six find work

PHILIPSBURG–A total of 472 persons registered as unemployed at the Department of Labour in 2018, including persons who are required to register as a prerequisite to receiving financial and medical aid, and persons who are unemployable due to disability, for example.

Of this number, 157 were assessed for “labour market readiness”; 44 were referred to job opportunities and six found employment via the Department of Labour, according to figures requested by The Daily Herald and provided by Minister of Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA Emil Lee.

A total of 433 registered as unemployed in 2017 and 507 persons registered in 2016.

Lee said the total number of persons who register as unemployed includes persons who register because it is a condition for receiving financial aid or medical aid.

“Not all of these persons are actually available for the labour market. This may be because of a disability or other circumstances. Therefore, this number should not be taken as a measure for actual unemployment in the labour market,” Lee made clear.

According to the figures, a total of 130 persons were assessed for “labour market readiness” in 2017; 67 were referred to job opportunities; and 16 found employment via the Labour Department.

In 2016 253 persons were assessed for labour market readiness; 325 were referred to job opportunities; and 44 found employment via the Labour Department.

Lee said the Department of Statistics STAT conducts labour market surveys that give a better indication of actual unemployment.

“However, there is a great difference between high season and low season numbers. The recently published 2018 survey – low season – showed a 9.9 per cent unemployment rate, which was in line with previous low season measurements (between 9 and 12 per cent). So even in the first post-9Hurricane – Ed.] Irma year, St. Maarten’s unemployment numbers were in fact not as high as might be expected,” he explained.

Post-Irma created a huge gap in the labour market within the hospitality sector. There were few to no jobs available and high unemployment amongst the sector-specific workers, he said.

“With the boom in the construction sector, many persons were unemployable due to lack of suitable construction skills and or willingness to take on this physically demanding sector, making it a challenge to match job-seekers with registered vacancies. The number of ‘unemployed/job-seekers’ registered by the Labour Affairs Department should not be confused with the unemployment rate in society,” he stressed.

He said also that there was a large skills mismatch between supply and demand in the labour market after Irma. “A large number of hospitality workers became unemployed, while the available jobs at the time were mainly in the construction sector. Low economic activity in the non-construction related sectors led to few vacancies available for the currently unemployed. This limited the chances of successful employment, possibly accounting for the low placement numbers by the department.”

To address this, the Department of Social Services and Labour Affairs adapted its services to manage the need for Government support to the employed. The Emergency Income and Training Project has absorbed around 900 unemployed persons, mainly employees of large hotels, to bridge the period until their place of work opens for business again.

Additionally, a significant number of candidates were enrolled in the construction training programme offered by the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA), he said.

The main tasks of the Department of Social Services and Labour Affairs in relation to registered unemployed are to assess to see whether person is employable, facilitate that the person is employable (job training, coaching, resume writing, etc.), match persons with registered vacancies of employers (when available), and to conduct passive tracing of successful employment of persons.

Job vacancies must be registered at the department to execute support services to registered unemployed. Jobs are not guaranteed. Financial aid recipients have the obligation of monthly reporting on their employment status.