PR unemployment down to 13.5%
The August jobless rate was down sharply from the 15.5 percent registered in the same month last year. It was 13.7 percent in July. Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate dropped below 14 percent in June for the first time since January 2009.
Still, Puerto Rico’s job scene remains cloudy as the run of unemployment rate decreases is due in large part to the exit of frustrated job-seekers who drop efforts to find work. (The unemployment numbers are based on people who are working and/or people actively seeking work who report to the island Labor Department seeking work or to get unemployment benefits.) All others seeking work who do not report to the Labor Department are not counted in the unemployment rate.
The labor-participation rate was just 39.9 percent in July (the most recent month available), down from 40.2 percent a year ago. The island’s labor-participation rate at the onset of the recession in 2006 was above 47 percent, but has been trending lower and trails far behind the U.S. average, which tops 65 percent.
BLS data shows that Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate has fallen every month since April 2011, and has posted a sustained decrease on a same-month comparison since March 2010. The jobless rate in August 2006, when Puerto Rico’s long recession was still taking root, was 10.6 percent.
High unemployment and low labor-force participation remain perhaps the biggest challenges to the Puerto Rico economy despite signs the island may finally be pulling out of its long economic doldrums, according to New York Federal Reserve President William C. Dudley.
Unemployment rates rose in more than half of U.S. states last month, the latest evidence that hiring remains tepid across the country.
The U.S. Labor Department says rates increased in 26 states. They fell in 12 states and were unchanged in the other 12. Unemployment also rose in seven of the 11 key swing states in this year’s presidential election.
Nationwide, hiring employers added only 96,000 jobs in August, below July’s gain of 141,000 and the average of 226,000 jobs a month added in January-March quarter.
The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July. But that was only because many people gave up looking for work. The government only counts people as unemployed if they are actively searching for jobs.