Sri Lanka’s unemployment rate narrowed to 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2016 (1Q16), compared to 4.7 percent year-on-year (yoy), and 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 (4Q15). This was the lowest levels of unemployment recorded since election campaigning that began in the third quarter of 2014, and continued a healthy momentum following an unemployment s p ike at 5.1 per cen t during the third quarter of 2015. The labour force in 1Q16 stood at 8.32 million.
The number of employed persons increased to 7.97 million from 7.80 million yoy and 7.83 million quarteron- quarter (qoq). Unemployment was dangerously high among citizens who had an educational background above G.C.E. Advanced Levels, with the unemployment rate at 7.7 percent. The agriculture sector saw employment decreasing to 2.27 million, or 28.5 percent of the employed population from 29.9 percent yoy and increasing from 28.1 percent qoq. Agriculture contributed just 7.4 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1Q16, growing just 1.9 percent yoy. Industries, one of the government’s key growth areas with their intention to create industrial zones, saw employment increase to 2.07 million, comprising of 26 percent of the employed population. This was an increase from 25.6 percent yoy and 25 percent qoq.
The industrial sector contributed 31.6 percent to GDP in 1Q16, growing 8.3 percent yoy, with construction growing by 12 percent yoy, with power generation and rubber and plastic product manufacturing also growing robustly. While the number of employed personnel in services increased to 3.63 million or 45.5 percent of the total in 1Q16 from 44.5 percent yoy, it recorded a decrease from 46.9 percent qoq. Services contributed 52.4 percent to GDP in 1Q16, growing 4.9 percent yoy. Financial services, wholesale and retail trade, and education services saw a high growth rate during the quarter. The government has promised to generate one million new jobs by 2020.