FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000

Puerto Rico’s economy has had considerable problems over the last decade, and Hurricane Maria, which struck the island just over one year ago and was the worst natural disaster on record in Puerto Rican history, greatly exacerbated them.

Despite nearly unanimous recognition of the island’s ongoing economic woes, Governor Ricardo Rosselló touted employment growth recently as the economy gained 100 jobs in July (this was later revised down to a loss of 400 jobs). Rosselló was looking at the household survey, which surveys people, rather than the establishment survey, which surveys businesses — and is the standard for reporting month-to-month employment numbers. (The household survey, which Rosselló used, might be better at including the informal sector, but it’s worse at reliably tracking jobs created and lost.) Employment fell in August as well, with another 1,000 jobs lost. Rosselló has claimed the island is seeing an “economic recovery.”

Based on the establishment survey, there is little to celebrate. From January 2013 to August 2017 (right before the storm), the economy was losing about 1,100 jobs per month (or around 400 private sector jobs per month). In January 2017, the government enacted labor reforms that were supposed to boost the economy and stem these losses. Those policies limited bonuses and paid leave, loosened hours requirements for employers, and reduced overtime benefits among other changes. These reforms were unpopular, and they also failed to curb job loss. From the enactment of the reforms until the hurricane, employment decreased by 14,700 (5,600 private sector), and the rate of loss actually increased to 1,800 jobs per month (700 private sector). Including the time since the hurricane, employment is down by 40,500, or 23,700 private sector jobs.

Hurricane Maria explains much of the decline over the last year. In addition to the lives lost and the catastrophic damage, the storm significantly impacted Puerto Rico’s labor market. In the month after, the island of around 3.3 million people lost almost 40,000 jobs, with total employment plummeting to 836,200 (the lowest level since the early 1990s). Since the hurricane, the economy has gained back just 14,000 jobs, or around 1,300 per month (although much of the gains were directly following the storm). Still, employment is down by about 26,000 over the last year (nearly 3.0 percent of total employment). Although Puerto Rico was losing jobs prior to the storm, the current level of employment is below what had been the trend from 2013 until the hurricane. If the economy had followed this trend, there would be over 12,000 more jobs on the island.

The story changes depending on the sector. Some sectors follow the overall trend, although there are notable exceptions that were hard hit. Manufacturing fell by 1,700 jobs (2.4 percent) over the last year to 70,000 jobs, with all of the loss in nondurable goods (which has not rebounded since the hurricane). Education and health services have lost 5,800 jobs over the past year (4.7 percent), with most concentrated in health and social assistance (4,800) — a sector vital to relief efforts. The overall education and health services sector has gained just 400 jobs since its post-hurricane low of 116,000 jobs. Government employment continues to slide, down 7,700 jobs over the past year as the state government sheds workers as part of austerity packages (state government has lost 6,600 jobs, or 4.4 percent). On the bright side, leisure and hospitality has mostly recovered after losing 13,400 jobs following Maria. The sector is now down just 900 jobs for the year, with total employment at 80,300.

Overall, the labor market in Puerto Rico has improved somewhat since the hurricane, but is still depressed. As the economy recovers from the hurricane, the better-case scenario seems to be returning to the pre-hurricane level of jobs, with a trend of still steady, but slower, job loss. A worse scenario is if the economy does not reach the level of jobs associated with the prior trend, either overall or for specific sectors, and the hurricane shifts the number of jobs on the island downward in the short- and medium-term.

Kevin Cashman writes for CERP’s America’s Blog, where this article originally appeared.

More articles by:

November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail