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Puerto Rico labor force rate at lowest in 27 years

By on November 17, 2017

SAN JUAN – After Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico, the Worker Group survey prepared by the Labor & Human Resources Department revealed that in October the labor-force participation rate was 38.6%, the lowest level in 27 years.

For the same period last year, the participation rate was 39.7%. In October 2017, 1,061,000 people were working, or 42,000 fewer people compared with the same period last year when there were 1,103,000 working.

Puerto Rico’s nonfarm-payroll employment survey, which is based on business establishments on the island, found that 31,600 salaried positions were lost between September and October, for a total 842,000 people with salaries. When compared with the same month last year, a loss of 54,000 jobs is revealed. It is the lowest salaried employment number for the island since at least 1990.

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Meanwhile, some 16,000 people reported they were not actively seeking work in the aftermath of María.

“As we anticipated, labor market surveys on the island for the month of October reflected the devastation in employment caused by hurricanes Irma and María. Unfortunately, thousands of citizens have lost their jobs because of these atmospheric phenomena. The challenge we face as a Government and as a society is enormous and certainly all the efforts of this administration will focus on continuing to reactivate the economy of Puerto Rico,” Labor Secretary Carlos Saavedra said.

The Labor Department, whose methodology is validated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) through a cooperative agreement, resumed its collection of statistics in October since it could not conduct the work due to September’s hurricanes.

The surveys were carried in an atypical period, when the priority of people was to normalize their living conditions. For this period, the unemployment rate, total employment, total unemployment and labor force numbers were not seasonally adjusted.

Regularly, the data are seasonally adjusted, but the BLS could not make the adjustment for October because there is no data for September since the worker group survey could not be compiled due to the hurricane-caused disruptions.

“For the past month of October, the total loss in salaried employment occurred in the private sector. Unlike the worker group survey, nonfarm payroll employment could be carried out for the month of September because it is based on commercial establishment payrolls,” Saavedra explained.

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