- Helped by higher apparel exports and agricultural activity
- Unemployment among young women falls sharply
- Labour force participation during 4Q17 at 54.1%
Unemployment in Sri Lanka fell to a 5-year low of 4 percent during the fourth quarter of 2017 (4Q17), amid booming apparel exports and a rebound in agricultural activity after suffering from a two year drought.
Although the Census and Statistics Department said the change was statistically insignificant, it was the lowest unemployment fall after the figure of 3.8 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The figure fell to 4 percent during the last quarter compared to 4.2 percent in both a year-on-year (YoY) and quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) basis.
Interestingly, unemployment fell most among females between the age groups of 15 to 24 and 24 to 29, which have remained stubbornly high historically.
Overall, 8.3 million individuals were employed during 4Q17, compared to 8 million YoY and 8.2 million QoQ, indicating more jobs being created on an absolute basis as well. Industries recorded the fastest growth in employment in an annual basis, accounting for 28.3 percent of jobs in 4Q17 compared to 25.7 percent YoY, amidst Sri Lanka regaining the GSP Plus duty free facility to the EU market during the latter half of 2017, which boosted apparel exports; an industry which employs women in large numbers.
The agriculture sector employment fell marginally YoY to 27.6 percent despite a marginal YoY gain in the total number of people employed in the sector, while services sector employment fell to 44.7 percent from 46.7 percent YoY, although the number of jobs destroyed was marginal YoY.
However, after the agriculture sector recorded an all time low employment share of 24.3 percent in 3Q17 due to an ongoing drought, there was a rebound QoQ, with a quarter of a million people entering the sector in 4Q17 to bring up the total engaged in agricultural activity to 2.2 million as the inclement weather eased.
Industrial employment fell marginally as a response, but the biggest victim was the services sector, where 3.7 million were employed in 4Q17 compared to 3.8 million QoQ. During 4Q17, the agriculture sector expanded by 7.1 percent YoY, although in 2017, the sector experienced a negative growth of 0.8 percent.
The industrial sector grew by 2.7 percent YoY and the services sector grew by 3.2 percent YoY in 4Q17, while for the entirety of 2017, the YoY growth was 3.9 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.
The labour force participation during 4Q17 was 54.1 percent, while the female labour force participation was 36.4 percent compared to 35.7 percent YoY and 36.9 percent QoQ.