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MORE than 2,700 workers were retrenched in 2020 compared to 1,528 people let go in 2019, the Central Bank said yesterday.

In its annual economic survey for 2020, the bank said the data on retrenchment notices filed at the Ministry of Labour counted 2,744 retrenchments for last year.

The finance, insurance, real estate and other business services served the most notices, with 879 people getting sent home.

Distribution, restaurants and hotels also let go 527 people, while the manufacturing sector lost 562 people.

The Central Bank indicated that the number of job advertisements published in the print media declined by 41.0 per cent during 2020.

“Labour market slack was also evident by fewer man-hours worked during the first three quarters of 2020. The Index of Hours Worked, inclusive of both the energy and non-energy sectors, declined by 2.5 per cent year-on-year over the period,” the survey said.

It noted that since the onset of the first confirmed positive case of Covid-19 on March 12, 2020 and the Government’s continued measures to curb the spread of the virus, the energy, manufacturing, construction, transportation and other business services (hospitality, entertainment, and tourism) sectors were hardest hit by these public health restrictions.

The Energy Commodity Price Index fell to an average of 61.4 in 2020 representing an overall decline of 26.2 per cent.

This was attributed to the ongoing pandemic which was the main driving force behind sharp fall-offs in crude oil and natural gas prices, which in turn were transmitted further downstream to other commodities, the Bank noted.

Natural gas prices also declined last year on account of increased shale gas supply and a downturn in demand in light of the pandemic.

“Natural gas prices averaged US$2.21 per million British Thermal Units (mmbtu) over the course of the year, compared with US$2.40 per mmbtu in 2019,” the bank said.

Public sector debt

Gross public sector debt outstanding as at the end of September 2020 amounted to $133.4 billion, compared to $121.0 billion recorded at end-September 2019, the survey indicated.

The bank noted that during 2020, the public sector depended heavily on domestic and external sources of funds for budgetary support and refinancing.

Also, Government domestic debt, excluding sterilised securities, increased to $56.5 billion in September 2020 from $47 billion in September 2019 and under the Development Loans Act, Government borrowed $8.8 billion for budgetary support and refinancing, a $2.5 billion increase over the financial year of 2018/19.

Food inflation measured 2.8 per cent in 2020 compared to 0.6 per cent in 2019 and this was predominantly driven by increased international food prices and supply disruptions brought about by lockdown measures associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bank stated.

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