Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate slipped below 10% in April for the first time since 2000, in a reflection of the island's shrinking population.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the island’s unemployment rate was 9.9%, its lowest level since it was 9.8% in November 2000.
The number of residents with jobs declined 1% in April from April 2017 according to the bureau’s household survey.
The bureau also compiles a survey of employers, called the Current Employment Statistics, and this showed total non-farm employment declining in April by 3.6% from a year earlier. This survey showed private sector non-farm employment down 3.3% from a year earlier.
The figures provide a further sign of the difficulty ahead for the Puerto Rico economy as the territory restructures its debt.
The “unemployment rate is down mainly due to emigration,” said Advantage Business Consulting President Vicente Feliciano in an email. “Thus, there are fewer people employed but as a result of emigration, fewer people are looking for a job.
“Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico economy is being impacted by the start of [hurricane-related] insurance and Federal transfers. The Economic Activity Index in March 2018 is up with respect to February 2018,” Feliciano said.
“Cement sales are up over 20% in March 2018 compared to March 2017. While these transfers are only beginning, they are non-recurrent and therefore should not be the basis for debt renegotiation.”
“The [labor force] participation rate remains very low,” said Inteligencia Económica Chairman Gustavo Vélez. “The information that I have is that the labor market is not normalized yet. Nevertheless, key industries like construction and retail are doing well because of the federal recovery funds already deployed into the local economy ($10 billion since October 2017).”
All employment statistics in this story have been seasonally adjusted.
In the most recent economic activity index release, that for March, the index was down 2.6% from a year earlier. However, this was a rebound from the 19.7% decline in November 2017 from November 2016.