A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued today contradicted Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s recent claim that 20,000 jobs had been created in Puerto Rico since he took office January 2nd.
The report said that the territory had lost 14,381 jobs instead as of the beginning of this month.
Garcia was largely elected on a promise that there would be 50,000 more jobs in Puerto Rico within 18 months of his inauguration.
To fulfill his pledge, Puerto Rico will need to have 64,381 more jobs in just over nine months.
The report states that there were 1,017,842 jobs in the territory at the end of August. According to the Federal agency, there were 1,032,223 jobs when Garcia took office.
The current number of jobs is the lowest since January 1994.
The number of Puerto Ricans out of work but looking for jobs increased 6,890 in August. The increase pushed the territory’s unemployment rate up to 13.9% from 13.5% in July. It was 13.2% in June.
The State with the highest jobless rate was Nevada at 9.5%. North Dakota was the lowest with an unemployment rate of 3% — which is considered full employment since people transition in and out of jobs.
The reason for the contradiction between what Garcia is saying and the facts is that the Governor is only counting jobs created and not jobs lost — a misleading statistic. The only relevant number is the overall increase or decrease in employment.
The increase in the jobless rate actually understates the unemployment problem in the territory. The Federal report also showed that Puerto Rico’s labor force has shrunk 23,158 people since Garcia has been Governor. There were 1,182,434 workers in the territory at the end of August. There were 1,205,589 when Garcia took office.
Some of the 23,158 have simply given up looking for work. Others have moved to a State for the greater opportunities a State offers.
Just two out of every five adults are in Puerto Rico’s labor force, a percentage that continues to shrink. The rate in the States exceeds three out of five.
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 more than 20% of the 1,277,560 jobs that existed then.
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 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. This deprives the economy — and individual Puerto Ricans — of billions of dollars in income every year.
At the same time, Puerto Rico does not have the business advantages that it could have as a nation — lower labor, environmental, and other costs if it wanted and control of trade.
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 — the recent, unprecedented 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 the total population of Puerto Rico. About 29% of all people born in the islands now live in the States. The new residents of the States have ‘voted with their feet’ for the equality of opportunity that statehood means.
Puerto Rico voted against the current territory status and for statehood in a plebiscite last November.
There is legislation in Congress sponsored by President Obama and Puerto Rico’s representative to the Federal government, statehood party president Pedro Pierluisi, for a confirmation plebiscite.