Puerto Rico’s employment picture is unclear

Register now

Statistics on Puerto Rico’s employment picture are conflicted. In some ways they show a more positive economic situation than that of the United States; in other ways they show a bleaker situation.

Puerto Rico bondholders, the Puerto Rico Oversight Board, and Puerto Rico's local government have been monitoring employment and other economic indicators for leverage in their bargaining over the restructuring of Puerto Rico's debt.

Because of a variety of technical issues, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics hasn’t released seasonally adjusted household survey employment statistics for the island for March through June.

However, the non-seasonally adjusted household survey statistics show that the island’s total employment went down 4.9% in June from a year earlier. While this is a major slide in historical terms, it is substantially less than the 9.5% decline that the same U.S. statistic experienced in the period.

In June 2019 there were 1,023,787 employed on the island. The bureau reported that there were 973,196 employed in June 2020.

Consistent with this picture of a comparatively modest decline in island employment, the bureau said there was a June 8.5% unemployment rate based on seasonally unadjusted data. This compares to June’s seasonally unadjusted U.S. unemployment rate of 11.2%.

Along with a household survey, the bureau also releases an employer survey of nonagricultural employment. This tells a different tale.

The employer survey’s seasonally adjusted data showed total employment down 11% on the island in June compared to a year earlier. It also showed private sector employment down 11.2%.

These figures compare to those for the United States of 8.6% for the overall job market and 9.1% for the private sector.

Along with agricultural jobs, the employer survey excludes people who are self-employed.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Puerto Rico Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Highway & Transportation Authority Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corp (COFINA) Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financial Authority PROMESA