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2005-12-01 08:42:03

Grand Bahama Economy Has Collapsed

The economy of Grand Bahama has collapsed, an official at the Department of Labour's Employment Exchange told The Bahama Journal yesterday.

Franclyn Johnson, an employment exchange officer, said, "There are many persons applying for jobs, but there are insufficient vacancies to make placements."

Figures from the Department of Labour reveal that to be the case.

From January to October 2005, more than 1,100 persons registered for jobs. More than 1,000 of these job seekers were referred to 250 employers advertising vacancies and 155 persons secured jobs, according to Mrs. Johnson.

Statistics reveal that the number of applicants also outnumbered the available jobs last year.

From January to December 2004, more than 1,300 jobseekers registered at the Department. Ms. Johnson said 200 persons received jobs.

The trend is also being seen at private-sector employment agencies.

Catherine Curry, owner of Sunshine Employment Agency, told The Journal that the unemployment situation in Grand Bahama was already steadily deteriorating when Hurricane Wilma hit in October.

"There is no substantial work on Grand Bahama," she said. "The hurricanes have exacerbated the situation, but it was bad before. There weren't any jobs before."

Mrs. Curry said many residents have become disillusioned by the economic situation and have resorted to going abroad to find employment.

Some people, she said, have been looking for employment in places like the Turks and Caicos Islands and others who have been educated abroad have decided to remain there.

"Many persons I know have children, college graduates, who've decided not to return to Grand Bahama," she said.

Michelle Thompson from Universal Employment Agency said she has also seen a decline in available jobs since the hurricanes.

"There has been a decline mainly because a lot of businesses have closed and [as a result] unemployment has definitely gone up," she reported.

Mrs. Thompson said she has seen over 1,000 registrants from January of this year, but the agency has only been able to place just over 100 applicants.

Mrs. Johnson from the Department of Labour said she has seen " a domino effect" beginning with the decline of the Royal Oasis Resort.

"The closure of the Royal Oasis did play a big part in the economic situation affecting the International Bazaar, then other businesses in the Freeport area," she said.

The resort was closed in September 2004 after Hurricane Frances caused widespread devastation. More than 1,000 Grand Bahamians lost their jobs contributing to the rise in unemployment from 9.3 percent to 11 percent.

Ms. Johnson said there are some vacancies, but not many.

"There are employers looking for construction workers, security guards, handymen and positions of that sort," she said, "but there are no clerical, administrative, or professional positions available."

By: Daphne McIntosh, The Bahama Journal

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