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Panama's Unemployment Future Uncertain

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Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 08:36
Unemployment PanamaUnemployment is becoming a hot issue in Panama, cialis where a large portion of the nation's work force has been occupied with the construction of its real estate boom, and is thus unpredictable regarding the future of a slouching investment market. About five years ago, Panama's unemployment rate was high, around 15%. At the end of 2008, it was marked at 5%, which is a huge improvement, fueled heavily by the real estate/construction boom. The majority of the nation's unskilled workers were put in harnesses and strapped atop construction sites: a handful of whom died because safety was not a priority. Labor Minister Benjamin Salamín was quoted recently claiming that Panama has sufficient back-up plans should the world continue to slip into financial crises, suggesting that the Canal Expansion and tourism industry will create enough new jobs to replace the assumed quantity (which could vanish with the real estate bust). Panama's a small country of 3 million+ people, so newly created jobs in the public works sector do have a proportionally large impact.

The other question to ask, as we so often do in Panama, is whether these numbers are accurate? As Eric Jackson of The Panama News pointed out back in 2007, the definition of "jobs" at one point stretched as far as people selling sewing kits and washcloths at traffic stops. Around that time, you could occupy yourself by picking bellybutton lint and apply for social security. Would washing car windshields qualify? How about sitting on the corner and simply asking folks for loose change? Would that constitute a Panama job?

I once found myself seated in an office answering questions from a man who wore red-sole shoes. I know this because he was leaned back with his feet crossed up on the desk in a sort of relaxed executive position. I was interviewing for an ambiguous job at a sports marketing agency, the ad for which I had come across in the local newspaper under the heading, Like Sports? How does $20/hr sound to you?

Umm, yes I do, and that sounds amazing, I muttered to myself while circling the classified ad with a thick red pen. I was unemployed at the time and felt blessed to have stumbled upon such a perfect-fitting career.

The interview itself ran divergent from other interviews I had gone through, primarily because I felt the man was doing it for the first time. "Tell me about your time at Princeton," I remember him saying, to which I clarified I hadn't actually attended Princeton University but rather simply grown up in the town. "OK, interesting," he said, as if my ability to think quick on my feet may be of use. "Well in that case, tell me...a couple sentances about every job you have ever held."

It's not something you think about often, every job you have ever held. Unlike recollecting sexual partners or cars you once owned, work rarely conjures up fond memories which is, I suppose, why people don't sit around and make photo albums of ex-bosses or co-workers. But after giving it some thought, I started naming my various jobs which read not unlike a laundry list of punishment or reprimand: kindergarten camp counselor, French fry cook, woolens vendor, babysitter, paper pushing bitch for marketing director at advertising agency...etc.

More surprising than my ability to recall all my previous employers was the man's interest in what he called my "vast life experiences." Why, they are vast, aren't they? I thought to myself.

He hired me on the spot and told me to show up the next morning at 6 AM. I was extremely excited driving home, which in hindsight was about as appropriate as winning a charity luncheon with Ayman al-Zawahri. I turned up the volume on the radio and sang with triumph, the words to Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On until a confused gnat flew directly down my throat and I was forced to cough the chorus.

The next morning, I showed up and was handed the keys to a giant moving truck, a walkie-talkie, and a set of indecipherable maps that appeared to have been printed off line. I would have been no less surprised to receive a gym bag with some box cutters and clown masks. I'm sorry, I wanted to ask. But has this job been approved by the Department of Homeland Security?
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"Take old Nelly here," my new boss told me, pointing to the big truck, "to the Summer Sizzle Lacrosse Tournament, set up the shooting contest, and make sure no one gets hurt."

Nelly? Summer sizzle? A shooting contest?

Once I made it to the tournament, I opened the back door and found a large, deflated rubber blow-up structure, several generators, and two industrial fans used, presumably to bring the thing to life: in looking back, probably one of the defining moments of my existence. Scampering around from side to side, I must have looked like an ant trying to move a bag of party balloons. After a day of running little kids through a moonbounce-type lacrosse shooting contest, I respectfully returned the truck to its parking spot and requested the office delete my file and never call me again to the day I die.

While, in the traditional sense of the word, I had spent the day operating the Summer Sizzle, the experience truthfully more resembled a type of Sicilian torture. I was paid not in money but in large cases of Mountain Dew that appeared to have been left over from a previous event. Define a job, I challenge myself in recollecting that day. If we're talking about an activity that's performed in exchange for some kind of compensation, then yes this was one, but if we're talking about an activity that actually requires some sort of skill or formality or contribution to the community than I believe I reamined duly unemployed.

Image: bc.edu/offices/careers/meta-elements/jpg/jobsearchnewspaper.jpg


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are you nuts?
written by Scott D. , January 28, 2009
Matt, are you not following any of the news? The economy here is GROWING, BIG TIME. There will be plenty of work for Panama's people. Unemployment will NOT be an issue. Thanks.
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Rebecca Tyre
Scott What Are You Smoking?
written by rebecca , January 29, 2009
Sure Panama has been registering growth, but do you honestly think that is going to last? What happens when developers cannot afford to finish buildings because buyers can't pay the balance on their condos? What will happen to the construction workers? Real estate agents are already seeing a huge drop in clients looking to buy. People looking to sell, no problem because they need to unload their luxury condo they can no longer afford.

With people in North America being laid off in record numbers, do you really think those people are going to be able to afford to come to Panama on vacation? Where will that leave the hotels? The tour companies? The restaurants?

There's even been a drop in the amount of Post-Panamax ships being built because of the state of the economy. Panama is expanding the canal to be able to support said post-panamax ships. What then?

I think it's extremely naive to think what is going on in the rest of the world will not have an impact on Panama.
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Matt -- Notwithstanding your cute story, I hope you're overlooking the big picture.
written by James G , January 29, 2009
Panama - The Monthly Index of Economic Activity (IMAE) of Panama grew 8.27 percent from January to November of 2008, informed official sources.

According to comptroller reports the growth was due to the high performance of mining and quarries, construction, transportation, storage and communications, hotels and restaurants.

Also noteworthy in that period was trade, real estate and other community, social and personal services. The sector of electricity and water presented a positive rate due to the increase of hydraulic energy as well as a larger invoicing of water consumption.

In the meantime, the manufacturing industry presented increases in making paper, non metal mineral products and meats and alcoholic beverages.

Other sectors that supplied growth to the economy during the period analyzed were fishing, brokerages and public administration.

However, the index in November registered 3.47 percent demonstrating a deceleration in relation to the 4.75 percent increase registered in October.

On a more personal note, three of my employees flew to Panama two weeks ago, from Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. All planes were full or nearly full, and the
American flight from Miami was oversold. The return flight to Atlanta on Delta was oversold. People are coming to Panama, and they are bringing business.
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Just to make myself clear...
written by Mateo , January 30, 2009
James and Scott D: Just to be clear, this article states three main points...

1. Unemployment rates have decreased to the lowest rates in a long time - great.
2. Experts point to numbers suggesting job creation will continue steadily - fine.
3. How accurate are these numbers and how legitimate are the reasons given?

Panama's economy will not grow (in 2009) as fast as it did in 2008.
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Panama Not Immune to Jobs Loss
written by Mateo , January 30, 2009
This is from La Estrella, for what it's worth:

Close to 2.4 million people will lose their jobs in Latin America, and that includes the local labor market according to the CONEP president

Close to 2. 4 million people will lose their jobs in Latin America due to the world financial crisis, joining the army of 15 million currently unemployed say projections of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

It is the first time since 2003 that a rise in unemployment in the region will be registered.

It is estimated that 2009 could close with an unemployment index of 8.3 percent, while 2008 ended with an index of 7.4 percent.

ILO regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jean Maninat, said the rise will have a significant impact on the labor market, which is why he urges governments to adopt the necessary measures that would allow the possible reversal of the projections.

The report also states that the region’s minimum wage increased by 3.7 percent, a figure lower than the 5 percent increase obtained last year.
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to Scott D. and James G.
written by Bob Mortimer , February 16, 2009
yep. sure. everything will be fine. its not just a short term effect. no siree. its here. for good. we are strong. we are stable. fingers crossed.
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Keep on looking..................just avoid herba life meetings
written by Daniel Ed , February 25, 2009
Don´t live in fear trust me, Panama had and still will possess the two main sources of steady income that will keep her afloat in Latin America and those are her location and the flexibility of mind of her inhabitants. Just remember 20 years ago we were invaded and still Panama is one of the few countries where George Bush Jr was received properly.
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W, received properly
written by Silverfox , February 27, 2009
Goddamn it. I need to pay more attention. I didn't know Dubya was in La Joya.

Location and flexibility? I thought it was benzoylmethyl ecgonine and funders of micro-regional airlines that supported this economy at a base level. Oh, yeah, now I get it. You mean the location near the processing facilities for said product, location of a major trans-shipment facility at Colon, the flexibility to allow the transit of said product and, importantly, flexibility (and expertise) in dizzying the returning coin.

Yup.
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 January 2009 08:48
 
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