A new U.S. Labor Department report was bad news for new Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s pledge to create 50,000 jobs in 18 months. During his first three months in office — one sixth of the period, the territory lost 6,466 jobs.
The job loss came despite repeated claims by Garcia Padilla that jobs were being created towards his 50,000 additional jobs goal. His assertions have been based on announcements of corporate investment plans, which he attributed to his administration’s policies and efforts — and which may or may not come to pass.
“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-year term, 119,653 jobs were lost.
But 125,684 jobs were lost from May 2006 until Fortuno’s term began at the beginning of January, 2009 under another ‘commonwealther’ governor in whose cabinet Garcia served, Anibal Acevedo Vila.
The real story of Puerto Rico’s job loss is that it relates little to individual governmental administrations or political parties. 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.
Since April 2006, Puerto Rico has lost 251,803 jobs. The loss is almost one-fifth of the 1,277,560 jobs that existed in April 2006. At the end of this March, there were only 1,025,757 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 for the U.S. citizens of the States but not for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico.