PR jobless rate falls to 13.7% in July
The July jobless rate was down sharply from the 15.6 percent registered in the same month last year. It was 13.8 percent in June, which marked the first time Puerto Rico’s unemployment has been below 14 percent since January 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS).
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 39.6 percent in June, down from 40.5 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. [The Puerto Rico Labor Department has not yet released its May employment report, which includes labor participation data.]
The BLS report on Friday pegged Puerto Rico’s civilian labor force at 1.267 million in July, down from 1.27 million during the same month last year. It was at 1.26 million in May.
The number of people on Puerto Rico’s unemployment rolls was 173,300 in July, down from 198,200 last year. There were roughly 173,700 people receiving jobless benefits in June.
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 July 2006, when Puerto Rico’s long recession was still taking root, was 10.7 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.
Total employment fell by about 13 percent, or roughly 140,000 jobs, between its peak in 2005 and mid-2010. This is nearly double the 7 percent job loss on the mainland U.S. For the past two years, employment has appeared to have bottomed out, but there has been little evidence of recovery.
“The island’s unemployment rate has fallen by more than a percentage point over the past year, but this isn’t necessarily good news,” Dudley said in address to the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce earlier this summer. “The fall was largely the result of a fall in labor-force participation.”
Unemployment rates rose in 44 US states in July
Unemployment rates rose in 44 U.S. states in July, the most states to show a monthly increase in more than three years and a reflection of weak hiring nationwide.
The Labor Department says unemployment fell in only two states and were unchanged in four.
Unemployment rates rose in nine states that are considered battlegrounds in the presidential election. That trend, if it continued, could pose a threat to President Barack Obama's re-election bid in less than three months.
Nationwide, hiring improved in July after three months of tepid hiring. But the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent. Monthly job gains have averaged 150,000 this year. That’s barely enough to accommodate population growth. As a result, the unemployment rate is the same as when the year began.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.