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Puerto Rico’s Employment Decreases While the Nation Moves Forward

BLS1 The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released newly updated employment statistics for Puerto Rico, covering the time period from September of 2012 to September of 2013.  While the United States as a whole increased its workforce during the year ending in September, Puerto Rico’s declined. The numbers for the municipio (county) of San Juan in particular were worse than those for Puerto Rico as a whole, with an employment loss of 2.9 percent. Employment in the U.S. grew 1.7 percent over the same time period. Fewer people are working, and those who do work are earning less. The average weekly wage in the United States increased by 1.9% while the average weekly wage in San Juan was dropped by 0.3 percent during the time period in question. The U.S. weekly wage was $922 in September; that of Puerto Rico was $598. BLS2 Looking more closely at the 77 municipios, the BLS reports that all showed average wages below every state in the Union, with 35 of the 77 reporting average weekly wages below $400. Have things improved since September? Between July of 2013 and March of 2014, a time period overlapping with and directly following the BLS numbers, Puerto Rico’s workforce fell by another 1.7%. Unemployment dropped slightly in March, but workforce participation was still very low — Puerto Rico had roughly 5,000 fewer jobs in March 2014 than in March of 2013. The September 2012 to September 2013 data are the most thorough numbers available; more recent data showing a briefer time span are likely to be based on smaller samples and to be affected by volatile current events.  Puerto Rico’s part of the Economic Census, an every-five-years report from the U.S. Census Bureau, will be released next year. It is likely that it will present further bad news. Puerto Rico continues to make efforts to overcome the financial crisis that has been plaguing the U.S. territory, but so far results have not been encouraging.

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