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Jobless Numbers Increase in Puerto Rico

The number of Puerto Ricans out of work but looking for jobs increased 4,030 in July.  The increase pushed the territory’s unemployment rate up to 13.5% from 13.2% in June.

The figures come from a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The State with the highest jobless rate was Nevada at 9.5%. North Dakota was the lowest with an unemployment rate of 3%.

A major factor in the elections of Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and the “Commonwealth” party majority in both houses of Puerto Rico’s legislature last November was Garcia’s pledge to increase the number of jobs in the territory 50,000 in 18 months. To fulfill the promise, Puerto Rico will now need to have an additional 64,623 jobs in 11 months.

The Garcia Administration has been publicly suggesting that employment has increased because of some new jobs and private sector job creation plans.  It does not note the discontinuation of jobs that leads to the net job loss in the territory.

It has also not explained that many thousands of people have simply dropped out of the Puerto Rico workforce, leaving less of a labor pool.

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.

Many of those no longer looking for jobs in Puerto Rico have moved to the States.  Puerto Rico lost 2.2% of its population from 2000 to 2010.  An average of 2,360 Puerto Ricans moved away from the islands each month between 2010 and ’11.

In addition, more than a quarter of the jobs in Puerto Rico are now part-time.  The drop in full-time jobs in the territory has been occurring at more than  1,000 per month.  That is at about the rate of the creation of part-time jobs. In other words, overall jobs are being shifted from full-time to part-time status.

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. At the end of this July, there were only 1,017,600 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 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 — 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 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.

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