Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate and employment both fell for the third consecutive month in July.
The seemingly contradictory tale was told by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics household survey data, released Friday.
Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate declined to 9.8% in July from 10.1% in June and 11.5% in April. The 9.8% rate was the first time the rate was below 10% since November 2000, when it was also 9.8%.
However, the household survey also showed employment fell 0.31% from June and 1.1% from April.
Advantage Business Consulting president Vicente Feliciano explained that the simultaneous declines result from people leaving the island: “If somebody is unemployed and takes a plane to Orlando [Fla.], all of a sudden the unemployment rate went down.”
Feliciano also said that not too much should be made of month-to-month variations. He said it was better to keep an eye on the year-over-year shifts in the bureau’s establishment survey. While the bureau questions people for their household survey it questions employment centers for its establishment survey. The establishment survey doesn’t include self-employment or agricultural employment.
The establishment survey showed that total non-farm employment declined in July by 0.86%. “The 0.86% decline sounds reasonable, which is an economy in recession but not on free fall,” Feliciano said.