With a staggering economy as a result of the multibillion-dollar public debt and the impact of two hurricanes in 2017, the common perception among Puerto Rico’s residents is that there are higher unemployment rates. However, a recent report by the P.R. Department of Labor (DOL) reveals that the private sector has experienced growth in every main industry.
According to the agency’s analysis for the fiscal year 2019—which covers the period between July 1, 2018, to June 30 of the present year—the employment level was the island’s highest in the past 14 years.
Employment in the private sector showed an increase of 3.6 percent in the current fiscal year after the fall observed in the fiscal year 2018 (-3.3 percent) as a result of the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The DOL states that this increase has been the largest in 19 years.
Moreover, non-agricultural wage employment grew by 1.7 percent, compared to a -3.8 percent drop in the fiscal year 2018.
The industries that reported the greatest growth were construction (17.3 percent); professional & commercial services (4.1 percent); recreation & lodging (3.9 percent); trade, transportation, and utilities (3.6 percent); and information (2.8 percent).
Of these, the trade, transportation, and utilities, as well as the professional and commercial services sectors saw the most significant upsurge in 19 years. Likewise, the construction industry experienced its greatest increase in 15 years. The information and recreation industries also had its most significant growth in six years.
Another area that experienced growth was the self-employment sector, which grew by 3.3 percent in the fiscal year 2019 after being reduced by -3.7 percent the previous fiscal year.
Puerto Rico is waiting for another tranche of $8.2 billion in recovery funds from HUD.
Meanwhile, the public sector labor force rate was reduced by -4.3 percent, which marks a consecutive, decade-long decline.
The report, conducted by the Department’s Bureau of Statistics—headed by Assistant Secretary of Planning, Investigation and Development Elda Parés—notes that the Working Group Survey (Encuesta de Grupo Trabajador) concluded that the number of employed persons dropped by -1.1 percent.
Despite this, the unemployment rate in the fiscal year 2019 was reduced by 1.2 percentage points, whereas in the fiscal year 2018 the reduction was 0.3 percentage points. More specifically, the number of unemployed persons decreased by -12.6 percent in the present fiscal year, after experiencing a -3.8 drop in the fiscal year 2018.
The monthly employment and unemployment report for June 2019 revealed that the seasonally adjusted employment estimate for that month was of 990,000, or 8,000 more than the month prior. In contrast, by the same date in 2018 the department reported a total of 993,000 employed individuals, for a 3,000 drop.
It is worth noting, however, that the same estimate for unemployment revealed that the number of unemployed persons was lowered by 9,000 persons for June 2019 (91,000 people) in comparison to June 2018 (100,000 individuals).
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