There are mixed signals from the economy. On the one hand, the confidence of a panel of business leaders has dropped 8 percent.
On the other, a job fair over the weekend hopes to fill 2,000 places for bilingual employees. And an established car rental business reported Monday that it is adding the Enterprise-Rent-a-Car franchise in addition to the two it already holds.
The business panel is a continuing feature of the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado. The panel consists of 462 businesses. The outlook reported Monday was not rosy:
• Seven out of 10 firms said they would not make new hires for the year.
• Some 14 percent say they plan layoffs.
• Some 38 percent said they think the economic climate is worse than a year ago.
• The confidence index fell from 6.5 to 5.9 on a 10-point scale. The index measures expectations for the second three months of the year.
• Some 41 percent predict that the economic growth for the year will be from 0 to 2 percent and lower than the 3.5 percent predicted by the Banco Central.
• Some 58 percent see inflation being from 3 to 4 percent and the cost of living to increase by 8 percent by the end of the year.
The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras already has expressed its concern with the closing of some businesses in Costa Rica and statistics that show 228,000 persons unemployed in the country. The chamber has called for a declaration of a national emergency.
The job fair that starts Friday in the Antigua Aduana is sponsored by the Coalición Costarricense de Iniciativas de Desarrollo, known as CINDE. This is the 11th such annual event. The organization is asking Job seekers to register at its Web site in advance of the three-day event. At least 46 firms are expected to attend.
At the same time firms like Amazon are advertising on billboards in English for employees.
The minister of Trabajo, Víctor Morales Mora, said last week that the employment situation the country was due to some 60 percent of the job seekers having failed to complete a secondary education.
Clearly anyone who is fluent in English, Portuguese or some other languages will be able to find a job at the fair.
Other observers have blamed the disproportionately excessive salaries of the government for hoarding skilled workers.
It was Grupo ANC that said it was adding the Enterprise name to its existing brands, Alamo and National. The firm also will offer the rental car services in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
The firm that has a 45-year presence in the country must be aware that the rental car market led to the closing of several firms in the last few years.
In fact, the situation in the car rental market reflects the larger economy. Tourists have become more frugal. The rental car industry in particular has been the target of claims by customers that they were cheated. There are Web site postings by persons who did not receive the return of deposits or the rental clerk found previously unnoticed damage to the vehicle upon return.
Many firms rely on the free advertising they get from various travel guides, but posts are disproportionately by the discontented.
Many of these firms and others in the tourism business do not have a consistent and aggressive marketing program.