Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s commitment that 50,000 jobs would be created during his first 18 months in office is not to increase employment in Puerto Rico by that amount, according to his Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce.
Albert Baco Bague asserted recently that the “Commonwealth” party governor’s pledge was not that there would be a “net” of 50,000 “more” jobs in the territory after 18 months; just that 50,000 jobs would be created while others disappear.
Baco’s claim was the first suggestion from the Garcia camp that the Governor’s promise was not to increase employment in the territory.
Garcia was largely elected on the public understanding that his assurance was that there would be 50,000 more jobs in Puerto Rico within 18 months of his inauguration.
A recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study reported that the territory has actually lost 14,381 jobs as of the beginning of last month.
The report seemed to contradict a recent claim by Garcia that 20,000 jobs had been created in Puerto Rico since he took office January 2nd.
Puerto Rico would need to have 64,381 more jobs in just over nine months to have employment increased 50,000 during the first 18 month’s of Garcia’s tenure.
But, if Baco’s explanation is all that Garcia meant by his campaign promise, the pledge would be fulfilled if 30,000 more jobs are created by July 2014 even if every other job in Puerto Rico except for 20,000 are lost.
The 50,000 jobs pledge would be meaningless if Baco is right.
The Federal report stated that there were 1,017,842 jobs in the territory as of the beginning of September. 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 – a primary reason for Garcia’s election.
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%.
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 one-fifth 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 1.3 million more people of Puerto Rican origin in the States than the total population of Puerto Rico. About 30% of all people born in the islands now live in the States — 1.5 million. The new residents of the States have ‘voted with their feet’ for the equality of opportunity that statehood means.
The migration helps makes Puerto Rico’s status a national and not just a local issue.
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.