More than 59,000 jobs will have to be created in Puerto Rico over the next 14 months for Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla to fulfill his pledge to create 50,000 jobs in 18 months.
“Commonwealth” party candidate Garcia’s narrow election last November is widely attributed in part to the loss of jobs during the administration of his statehood party predecessor. During Luis Fortuno’s four years, 119,653 jobs were lost. But 125,684 jobs were lost from May 2006 until Fortuno’s tenure under a ‘commonwealther’ in whose cabinet Garcia served.
During Garcia’s first four months, the territory lost 9,067 jobs, according to a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Garcia reacted to the report by making misleading claims about unemployment decreasing during his tenure. He said that the 13.7% rate in April was 1.5% lower than when he took office. But the U.S. Labor Department bureau report said that the rate was 14.4% when he took office — meaning a reduction of .7% over four months, instead of 1.5%.
Further, the unemployment numbers cited by Garcia do not account for Puerto Ricans who have totally left the workforce in addition to those temporarily out of work.
It also does not account for jobs permanently lost – which gets to Garcia’s commitment to create 50,000 more jobs than existed when he became governor.
Garcia tried to suggest substantial progress towards meeting his 50,000 more jobs promise last week by announcing two business expansions that he said would create 550 jobs. And his Secretary of the Governorship, Ingrid Vila Biaggi, told reporters that public building projects would create 23,194 jobs during the 18 months.
But neither Garcia nor Vila even whispered about jobs and workers being permanently lost.
The real story of Puerto Rico’s job loss is that it relates little to individual governmental administrations. It is that the territory has been on a downward jobs spiral since April 2006, the high point in the history of numbers of jobs in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has lost 254,404 jobs since then almost one-fifth of the 1,277,560 jobs that existed. At the end of this April, there were only 1,023,156 jobs in the islands.
The staggering job loss is a consequence of Puerto Rico’s political status. Because of the status (really territory but popularly called “commonwealth”), Puerto Rico lacks the economic opportunities that it would have as a U.S. State or as a nation.
Puerto Rico and its US. citizens can be treated unequally with the States and their citizens in Federal program and tax laws — and are treated worse under some major program and taxes — depriving the economy — and individuals — of billions of dollars in income every year.
At the same time, Puerto Rico does not have the business advantages that it would have as a Nation.
The islands of 3.67 million people also lack voting representation in Congress and in the election of the president of the United States — making it difficult to get their needs addressed by the Federal government.
The loss of jobs in Puerto Rico has coincided with — and has helped caused — a loss of population. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans can move freely elsewhere in the Nation in search of greater economic opportunities and a better life.
There are now more than a million people of Puerto Rican origin in the States more than in Puerto Rico. One-third was born in the islands.
The new residents of the States have ‘voted with their feet’ for the equality of opportunity that statehood means.