Puerto Rico’s economic activity index for April increased by 0.8% over March, as payroll employment rose for the third month in a row.

The Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico, the commonwealth’s fiscal agent, calculates the index using four components: payroll employment, cement sales, gasoline consumption, and electric power consumption.

April’s index is 130.1, a 0.8% increase from March, the highest activity growth since October 2006. It is also a 4.1% decline compared to April 2009. The reduction in the index is the smallest contraction rate in 17 months.

“In the year-over-year comparison, this value represents the smallest contraction rate since December 2008, which is a sign of stabilization and of a potential forthcoming inflection point,” the GDB said in a statement.

In addition, Puerto Rico gained 12,400 jobs from January through April. Payroll employment increased by 4,300 jobs in April compared to March, though year-over-year payroll employment is down by 3.6%. The preliminary April unemployment rate is 17.2%, up from 16.2% in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Residents and businesses consumed more gasoline and electric power last month compared to April 2009. Year-over-year petroleum sales were up 10.2% in April, the second consecutive month of increased gas sales after consumption dropped to 74.5 million gallons in February.

The GDB anticipates oil sales in fiscal 2010 to average 90 million gallons a month.

Electricity sales dropped by 68 million kilowatt hours in April, though year-over-year consumption is up by 7.5%. Officials expect fiscal 2010 to show a positive growth in energy use, the first time since fiscal 2007.

Conversely, cement sales decreased in April compared to March. April cement sales were down 26% compared to the same month last year.

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