No inflation in December

There was no inflation in Jamaica in December, according to data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica. Not only was there no inflation on an overall basis, but prices also fell marginally, with the price index slipping from 128 in November to 127.9 in December.
According to Statin, the outcome emanated from a 1 percent decline in the index for the heaviest weighted division, Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages and a 0.9 percent fall for the Transport division. The fall in food prices was due to lower prices for carrots, tomatoes, cabbage and lettuce, being the main contributors to the 6.3 percent decrease in the index for the class Vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas and pulses. The fall in the transport index resulted mainly from lower petrol cost. There were increases in the index for the divisions; Restaurants and Accommodation Services by 3.4 percent, impacted mainly by increased prices for meals consumed away from home, and Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels that was up 0.7 percent, due mainly to increases in the rates for electricity, water and sewage.
For December 2022, the point-to-point inflation rate was 9.4 percent compared to the 10.3 percent that was recorded for November and 8.8 percent for 2022, marginally down from 9.1 percent for the 2021 calendar year.

Inflation in Jamaica now running under 5%

Inflation in Jamaica continues to decline and running well within the Bank of Jamaica target of 4 to 6 percent since the latter part of 2021, with inflation since October at 5.3 percent and 4.6 percent per annum since November last year.
In the next few months, inflation looks set to dip even more with commodity prices falling sharply with the price of fuel which is now under US$90 per barrel, set to send inflation locally down sharply.
As measured by the Consumer Price Index, Inflation increased by 0.7 percent for July 2022, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reported this week, bringing inflation since July last year to 10.2 percent, the government agency stated. The July 2022 inflation comes in well under the 1.7 percent increase in July 2021 but in line with the Inflation for June last year of 0.7 percent.
This increase for July, Statin states, was due mainly to a 1.4 percent increase in the index for the heavily weighted ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ division, with ‘Vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas and pulses’ rising 3 percent, ‘Cereals and cereal products’ up 1.7 percent, ‘Meat and other parts of slaughtered land animals’ increasing 0.8 percent and ‘Fish and Seafood’ up 0.7 percent.
Inflation in July was impacted by one off increase in toll rates on the two toll roads.

BOJ is wrong as inflation keeps falling

Jamaica’s central bank (BOJ) was granted independence in 2021 but they seem to be making a mess of it. For much of last year they fiddled around telling the country that inflation was well under control and that it would remain within the band of 4-6 percent for two years, that’s before they found out that it wasn’t.
They informed the Ministry of Finance in April last year, why they could not increase interest rates as that would trim economic growth. In May, they made an erroneous statement that inflation was still getting higher when the underlying data was suggesting that it was improving and close to their target.
According to BOJ inflation was 11.8 percent in April and would get worse over the next two months.
ICInsider.com advised that they were wrong and that inflation was running close to the target since October and therefore was not getting worse but was improving.
According to the BOJ after its meetings held on 12, 13 and 18 of May 2022, “the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) noted that inflation at April 2022 of 11.8 percent was higher than the outturn at March 2022 and represented the ninth consecutive month that inflation has been above the Bank’s target range of 4.0 to 6.0 percent. While inflation is forecasted to rise further over the next two months, the Bank forecasts inflation to fall in the second half of the year, consistent with consensus forecast for a fall in commodity prices. This means that the public should start to see lower inflation rates each month, beginning in the second half of 2022, as long as tensions between Russia and Ukraine do not escalate and inflation among Jamaica’s trading partners falls.”
The latest data from Statin is once more confirming what we stated last month and casting serious doubts on the authority of the central bank.  Statin’s latest reading on inflation is 0.3 percent for May with the year or year rate down to 10.8 percent, which is down 100 basis points from the April reading. The monthly rate for May is the lowest since November last year with zero inflation and April with negative 0.5.
Since October last year, some seven months ago even before the interest rate hikes took effect, inflation was just over 6.4 percent per annum. With an average of 0.535 percent per month. For the period from December last year, the average rate is 0.547 percent per month, but since January it is running at 5.46 percent per annum.
The rate is moderating, but the country is not out of the woods as yet. There are some hopeful signs for the coming months. The rate of exchange of the Jamaica dollar is now officially J$153.45 to the US dollar compared to around $156 up recently, this will cut the cost of imports and will contribute in a major way to cutting imported inflation. The recent increase in interest rates will also slow down economic activity.
The inflation trend since October last year, suggests BOJ has overdone the interest rate hike and the rate should start the downward trek before the end of the year.

Unemployment at record levels in Jamaica

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As Jamaica’s economy continues to recover from the negative effects of Covid-19, with a sharp drop in the number of persons unemployed and the number of persons employed is 16,000 less than the previous highest previous level in January 2020, according to data released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (Statin)
“In January 2022, there were 1,257,100 employed persons, an increase of 57,800 or 4.8 percent over January 2021”, Statin reported. But the 2022 numbers lag that of January 2020 with 1,273 million persons employed. With a full labour force of 1.34 million only 83,000 persons were regarded as unemployed as of January, the lowest on record with an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent bettering the previous lowest rate of 7.1 percent in October last year and much better than 8.8 percent for the same quarter of 2021.
While the unemployed numbers have fallen, the number of persons in the workforce declined from 1.373 million in 2020 to 1.34 million in 2022 a drop of 39,000. The job seeking rate declined to just 3.9 percent in the latest survey down from 4.9 percent in January 2020.
The largest increase in employment by occupation group was in ‘Clerks’. There were 120,500 persons employed in the occupation group ‘Clerks’ in January 2022, increased by 22,100 or 22.5 percent compared to January 2021.
Real Estate and Other Business Services had the largest increase by industry group compared to January 2021.

The Hampshire Apartments complex a Guardian Life project.

There were 126,600 persons employed in this industry group in January 2022, an increase of 25,200 or 24.9 percent versus the 2021 quarter. The second highest increase was in ‘Accommodation and Food Service Activities’, which employed 13,900 more persons.
The number of persons classified as Outside the Labour Force was 755,600 in January 2022, a decrease of 22,400 or 2.9 percent from 778,000 in January 2021.
Of import, the data would have done at a period when the tourism sector was operating at around 30 percent capacity as well as some other businesses that were yet to recover fully from the decline since 2020, as such the next reading could result in another fall in the unemployment rate and a strong possibility that total employment could get to record levels.

9% unemployment rate for Jamaica

Jamaica’s unemployment rate was 9 percent for the period to April 2021, and marginally worse than the January survey with unemployment of 9 percent, an increase for the same period last year, data released today from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica shows.
The latest data is an improvement over the 9 percent reported for January this year.
According to Statin, 1,206 million Jamaicans are employed during March this year, up from 1,195 shown by the January survey but 3.2 percent worse than in April 2019. No survey was done for April 2020 last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The art, entertainment and other service industries suffered the worse decline in employment.

March inflation in Jamaica jumps sharply

Prices in the category of Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels as measured by division the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) surged sharply by in March 13.1 percent and the category of Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ jumped 8.6 percent to help send inflation for March to the highest increase for 2020 to date.
The major items of the increase were tempered by the decline of 1.8 percent in the index for the group ‘Water Supply and Miscellaneous Services Related to the Dwelling.’
According to Statin, the All Jamaica Consumer Price Index recorded an increase of 1.1 percent for March this year. The increase was due primarily to the upward movements in the index for the groups, ‘Actual Housing Rentals and Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’, with the Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’ division increasing by an average of 4.6 percent for the overall inflation the index.
“The index for the heaviest weighted division ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ rose by 0.2 per cent, while the index for the ‘Transport’ division advanced by 0.5 per cent”, Statin advised.
For the review period, the calendar year-to-date inflation rate is negative 0.6 percent, with January having negative inflation of 1.6 percent and February 0.1 percent, while the fiscal year ending in March, the inflation rate was 4.4 percent and the rate for the past twelve months is 5.2 percent.

Jamaica’s unemployment drops again

Jamaica’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.7 percent in October last year to 8.9 percent in January this year, which is 1.5 percentage points higher than the rate in January 2020, data from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica shows.
According to the body charged with gather and reporting on Jamaica’s economic data, there were 1,194,800 employed persons at the time of the survey, 74,300 or 5.9 percent fewer persons compared to January 2020. “The largest decline in employment by occupation was among ‘Service Workers and Shop and Market Sales Workers’, while the industry with the largest decline in employment was ‘Accommodation and Food Service Activities,” Statin said.

Jamaica’s 2020 trade gap narrowed sharply

Jamaica spent US$1.7 billion less on imports in 2020 than in 2019 but still imported a staggering US$4.71 billion in goods during the year, at the same time, the country’s exports fell $427 million or 26.4 percent to $1.22 billion, a release by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) shows.

Oil drilling offshore

Mining exports fell by $288 million for the year, accounting for almost all of $293 million in the decline in traditional exports. Total Non-Traditional exports fell 9.3 percent or by $59 million to $568 million as the category Mineral Fuels etcetera fell by 26 percent or $77 million to $220 million from $297 million in 2019. This category involves mostly the sale of fuel to aircrafts and ships leaving Jamaica and exports of lubricants.
Interestingly, both imports and exports declined by 26.4 percent for the year as imports fell by 26.4 percent from US$6.4 billion in 2019. STATIN states that the decline in imports was largely due to lower imports of ‘Fuel and Lubricants’ and ‘Raw Materials and Intermediate Goods’, which fell by 48.8 percent and 17.1 percent, respectively.
“The decline in total exports was mainly influenced by a reduction in the export of Alumina which fell by 39.8 per cent and “Mineral Fuels” by 36.1 percent,” the release stated.

Consolidated Bakeries Miss Birdie Easter bun.

While the data shows some disappointing areas other than mining and Mineral Fuels, etcetera, there are a number of bright spots on the non-traditional front. Food exports climbed 12 or by $22 million to $207 million, with yams increasing by 24 percent and adding $7 million to end at $37 million. The category of Breads, Biscuits, Buns, Cakes etc., grew 13.8 percent to $25 million while sauces climbed a strong 24 percent to $30 million. Other Food Exports grew by 23 percent to $33 million and other domestic exports jumped 151 percent to $9 million.

Jamaica’s inflation is tamed

Inflation in Jamaica is tamed. At least that is what data out of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) is suggesting, with negative inflation for the first four months of the year. 
According to the latest data on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the inflation rate for April 2020 was 0.2 percent. The increase for April comes on the heels of low price increases from December last year, leading to a rise of 0.5 percent in the CPI index followed by January, with a negative price movement of 1.1 percent. February ended, with an increase of 0.7 percent, while March had a decline of 0.3 percent and with the April fall, the year to date movement came out at negative 0.5 percent.
The inflation rate for April is not directly comparable to the previous periods, but whatever difference there maybe is unlikely to be material. Statin updated the basket of goods and services used in the compilation of the index. Accordingly, the products and services included in the new CPI basket and the weights associated with each item have changed based on a 2017 Household Expenditure Survey. The difference between the old and new weighting is not substantial, with Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages weighting of 37.4 percent previously, is now down to 35.8 percent. The group of Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels is up to 17.8 percent from 12.8 percent previously. Transport is now at 11.2 percent versus 12.8 percent in the old basket. Recreation, Sports & Culture is at 5 percent compared to 3.4 percent in the previous measure. The only other change of note was the areas of Insurance & Financial Services that is now 1.1 percent. Previously it was grouped with Personal Care, Social Protection & Miscellaneous Goods & Services that amounted to 8.4 percent of the overall basket, with the new weighting for the new category, down to 5 percent.
According to STATIN, the reduction in the GCT rate, from 16.5 percent to 15 percent, impacted the inflation rate for April 2020. The ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ recorded an increase in its index of 0.3 percent. The inflation rate for the division ‘Housing, Water and Electricity’ was 0.2 percent due to a rise of 3.1 percent in the index for the group ‘Water Supply and Miscellaneous Services Relating to the Dwelling.’ The Transport division declined by 0.5 percent and was mainly attributable to the reduction in the costs of petrol.

Big inflation spike in 2019

 The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) reported that the annual inflation rate in Jamaica to December 2019, was 6.2 percent, a sharp increase from inflation over the last four years.
According to data from the Statin, inflation in 2018 was 2.4 percent, down from 5.2 percent in 2017. In 2016 the inflation rate ended at 1.7 percent and 3.7 percent in 2015, 6.4 in 2014 and 9.7 percent in 2013.
Jamaica’s Central Bank, in response to the sharp rise in the inflation for the year, stated, the outturn “represents a sharp jump when compared with the 3.4 percent recorded in September 2019. This inflation outturn was not anticipated and was higher than the Bank of Jamaica’s target of 4.0 to 6.0 percent.”
The release from Bank of Jamaica, stated, “the higher inflation rate was primarily influenced by faster increases in food and energy-related prices in the consumer price index (CPI). The heavily weighted Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages division of the CPI increased over the year to December by 10.7 percent, when compared with 6.7 percent in September 2019. This was primarily related to higher prices for vegetables and starchy foods, the consequence of adverse weather conditions (drought followed by heavy rains) that affected the Island between June and October 2019.

BOJ interest cuts overnight rate.

There was also news of crop-related diseases affecting some items. Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels reflected higher rates for electricity and water, which was partly related to increases in international oil prices in the December 2019 quarter. This division increased over the year to December to 1.5 percent, compared with a decline of 3.2 percent in September 2019.”
The release continues, “despite the higher headline inflation, underlying inflation, which excludes the immediate influence of agriculture and energy prices, remained stable and below 3.0 percent. At the end of  December 2019, the annual rate for this measure was 2.9 percent, which was unchanged compared with the rate in September 2019. This underscores that the Jamaican economy continues to reflect some slack with economic growth below its potential. It also highlights that the jump in inflation is likely to be temporary as expected tempered movements in agricultural prices dampen inflation over the next three to six months.”