Almost 63,000 jobs will have to be created in Puerto Rico over the next 13 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 five months, the territory lost 12,860 jobs, according to a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Garcia Administration almost simultaneously released a report that made misleading claims about unemployment decreasing during the Governor’s tenure. Labor Secretary Vance Thomas noted that the unemployment rate fell from 13.7% in April to 13.4% in May. He did not explain that the drop in the rate was due to the decrease in the number of jobs in the islands.
Instead, Thomas called the employment situation in Puerto Rico “encouraging.” He said that the numbers “reflect that the actions taken by this Administration for the creation of jobs are effective.”
Garcia has tried to suggest substantial progress towards meeting his 50,000 more jobs promise last week by announcing new jobs without mentioning the elimination of jobs — or the net decrease in jobs in the territory.
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 267,264 jobs since then, almost 21% of the 1,277,560 jobs that existed then. At the end of this May, there were only 1,019,363 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 1.2 million more people of Puerto Rican origin in the States 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.