The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) Quarterly Press Briefing for January – March 2019

Date: May 22, 2019

Mr. Wayne Henry, Director General for PIOJ, started the press briefing by providing the main highlights of the macroeconomic performance for the January to March 2019 quarter. The following were noted:

Overview of Real Industry Developments

  • For January-March 2019, real GDP grew by an estimated 1.5 percent relative to the corresponding quarter of 2018. The Goods Producing and Services Industries were estimated to have grown by 1.8 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.
  • Within the Goods Producing Industry, increases in real value added for the Mining & Quarrying (up 10.0 percent), Construction (up 3.5 percent), Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (up 0.2 percent). In contrast, Manufacturing contracted by 0.8 percent.
  • All industries within the Services Industry recorded growth for first quarter 2019, excluding Producers of Government Services. The industries estimated to have registered the largest growth rates were Hotels & Restaurants (7 percent) , Electricity &Water (2.1 percent), Transport, Storage & Communication (1.5 percent) and Wholesale & Retail Trade; Repair & Installation of Machinery (1.3 percent).
  • For  FY 2018/2019, Real Value Added was estimated to have increased by 1.9 percent. The Service’s Industry was estimated to have grown by 1.0 percent while the Goods Producing Industry expanded by 4.7 percent. The industries estimated to have recorded the largest increases in real value added during FY 2018/2019 were: Mining & Quarrying (28.5 percent); Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing (4.1 percent); and Construction (3.5 percent).

Other Macroeconomic Highlights 

  • For the reported period (January-March 2019), the Jamaican economy experienced inflation of 0.7 percent, which emanated primarily from an increase in prices for the Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages division (up 1.2 percent), Vegetables & Starchy Foods group. This was offset by reduction in prices for some items in Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels division (down 1.1 percent) driven by lower international crude oil prices relative to October- December 2018.
  • As of January 2019, the employed labour force increased by 28,600  persons to 1,232,700 persons versus an increase of 28,600 persons relative to January 2018. As a result, the unemployment rate for January 2019 was 8 percent the lowest on record, when compared to 9.6 percent in January 2018 and 8.7 per cent in October 2018.

Production Performance by industry

Real value added for Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing increased by 0.2 percent. Performance for the quarter was attributed to an estimated growth of 2.7 percent for Other Agricultural Crops. Of the nine crops, seven exhibited higher production. Condiments increased by 8.6 percent, Potatoes up 7.2 percent; Legumes up 4.2 percent; and Yams up 3.9 percent. Further growth was reduced by the contraction in Traditional Export crops, down 7.1 percent and Coffee down by 21.2 percent.

Real value added for Mining & Quarrying industry grew by 10.0 percent. This up-turn reflected higher alumina production as crude bauxite declined. The increase was due to an uptick in the alumina capacity utilization rate to 69.7 percent, up 7.8 percentage points relative to last corresponding quarter of 2018. Crude production reflected a 7 percent decline with associated contraction in the average bauxite utilization rate to 59.6 percent, down 4.5 percentage points.

The Manufacturing industry registered a decrease of 0.8 per cent. This drop resulted from Other Manufacturing sub-industry decreased output which outweighed the increase output from the Food, Beverage & Tobacco sub-industry. Lower output in Petroleum Products & Chemicals & Chemicals Products contributed to this out-turn. This was tempered by the increased output of Poultry Meat, up 3.3 percent; Edible fats, up 2.1 per cent; Dairy Products, up by 2.7 percent and Carbonated Beverages, up 8.7 percent from Food, Beverages & Tobacco sub-industry.

Real value added for the Construction industry grew by 3.5 percent. The higher value added was due to the increased activities in the Building Construction and Other Construction components.. Growth in the Building Construction component stemmed an increase in NHT Housing Start, up 186.6 percent to 4,337 units and work-in-progress on previously started developments. Construction components were as a result of higher capital expenditure on civil engineering activities. Expenditure from the National Work Agency and Jamaica Public Service were the main drivers.

Improvements in the Transport & Storage component resulted in real value added for the Transport, Storage and Communications industry of 1.5 percent. Growth resulted from increases in maritime transport due to increased cargo movement (10.4 percent), and air transport which was influenced by increased passenger movement (11.4 percent).

Higher levels of water production (up 0.7 percent and electricity consumption (down 2.3 percent) resulted in real value added for the Electricity & Water Supply industry by 2.1 percent. Increased consumption resulted in five of the six electricity customer categories with Large Power (Rate 50), up 9.9 percent and Power Service (Rate 40), up 3.1 percent, showing the greatest increases. The growth in water production reflected increased in the Western Division which was up 4.72 percent, outweighing the lower consumption in the Eastern division, down by 1.5 percent.

The combined effect of an increase in the value of net interest income on the stock of Loans & Advances at deposit-taking institutions, as well as, an increase in fees and commission income drove real value added in the Finance & Insurance Service industry by 0.9 percent.

Real Value Added in the Wholesale & Retail Trade; Repair and Installation of Machinery (WRTRIM) rose by 1.3 percent and was due to projected growth in the related Goods- Producing industries and increased employment. This was facilitated by a real increase of 7.1 percent in the Value of Automated (ABM) and Point of Sales transactions.

Real value added for the Hotels and Restaurants industry increased by 7.0 percent, reflecting increase Foreign Nationals arrival (up 13.4 percent to 668,185 persons) from the USA, Canada and Europe. Cruise passenger arrival decreased by 6.7 percent. Furthermore, visitor expenditure was US$945.0 million, increasing by US$97.7 million when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2018.

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