From first glance, you would think that the recent news of Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate dipping under 15% for the first time since May, 2009 (US Dept of Labor) would be good news for incumbent Republican and pro-statehood governor Luis Fortuño (although it is still in double digits). In a tough re-election campaign, he can begin to let people know that the island is slowly creeping out of four years of recession and he can do fluff interviews on FOX to state his case.
Yes, in April 2012 Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate (see image) was at 14.8%. However, look at the numbers. Really look at the numbers on this chart and you will see a different story: for all his talk about economic growth (new Walmarts!), cutting public sector jobs and making government leaner and meaner, Puerto Rico is actually losing jobs public sector jobs in Puerto Rico continue to be one of the island’s industries that is growing.
Here is the data that one should consider, based on official statistics from the US Department of Labor:
- From March to April, the Puerto Rican labor force decreased by 11,000 workers. In March, the labor force was at 1, 285,500. In April, it was at 1,274,500. In February, the labor force was at 1,291,400. So, from February to April, the Puerto Rican labor has decreased by 2%.
- Because the labor force is shrinking, Puerto Rico actually had a net decrease in total number of jobs in April, but still say the April unemployment rate go down by .02%. In April, there were 1,086,400 employed Puerto Ricans. In March, that number was 1,092,100. So about 6,000 jobs were lost but the unemployment rate went down. In February, the total number of jobs were at 1,097,400, which means that about 11,000 jobs were lost even though the unemployment rate is going down. Where are these jobs going? Who is leaving the island? Young talent. The labor force of Puerto Rico is shrinking.
- In addition, the public sector continues to be one of the island’s top sources of employment. In April, there was a reported 270,800 government jobs. In March, that number was at 269,100 and in February it was at 269,200. In January, the jobs were at 271,300. This sector continues to trend up.
The date presents other gains, like construction, but they are offset bu industries like trade, transportation, and utilities. In the end, the talk of a Puerto Rican miracle are a bit premature, because the labor data shows that people are just giving up or leaving the island’s labor force. Less people, less jobs, and a drop in unemployment. That is one way to fix your problems, although we don’t know if it is the best way.