Employment in Bermuda fell to its lowest level in more than 35 years last year as the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) destroyed an already struggling economy.
Labor Minister Jason Hayward and Cabinet Office Minister Wayne Furbert told a press conference that more than 1,900 jobs were lost last year when COVID-19 forced the government to close the airport Bermuda International from March 20 to July 1.
The total number of jobs filled decreased by 1,951 or 5.7%, from 34,378 in 2019 to 32,427 in 2020 – the lowest level of employment since 1985.
Furbert said the sectors hardest hit were the hospitality and food service industries, but signs were that the trend of job losses had not continued this year.
He said he hoped there were better days ahead.
“Overall, based on [government’s] economic stimulus plan and the other programs we’re working on, I’m sure over the next six or 12 months we’re going to see some significant job increases.
“There are challenges, but overall I think we’re getting there. We are working around the clock to make things happen, ”Furbert said as he and Hayward discussed the latest edition of the Bermuda Job Market Employment Briefs, which covered the period 2019 to 2020.
Furbert said employment levels have been severely affected by the pandemic which has seen the island’s largest hotel, the Fairmont Southampton, close with 900 jobs lost. It still has not been reopened.
Hayward said the economic downturn had affected young workers and service workers “disproportionately.”
He said the government continues to provide a safety net through its financial assistance program and the supplementary unemployment benefit program.
More than 750 people have participated in training programs, including webinars, internships and apprenticeships, and about 80 people have secured part-time or full-time jobs, he added.
Bermuda, which has a population of 64,000, has an estimated national debt of three billion US dollars.