Official figures on employment take a long time to be analyzed and reported, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics has just released the data comparing Puerto Rico’s employment figures for 2020 with 2019. It’s worth looking at the numbers, even though changes have certainly taken place since then, because this is the most accurate information available.
We’re sharing the numbers for San Juan, compared with the numbers for large counties in the United States as a whole, for the clearest comparison.
Employment down, wages (sort of) up
It is not surprising that total employment fell between 2019, before the pandemic, and 2020. In fact, the drop of 7.3% (compared with 6.8% for the U.S. as a whole) reported for San Juan is better than many would have anticipated.
The average weekly wage in the third quarter of 2020 was $669, which was an increase of 4.7% year over year. Most big counties in the U.S. saw an increase in 2020, for an average weekly wage of $1,173. However, the increase in average weekly wages reflects the loss of jobs. Most job loss was seen in lower paying jobs, taking for example, entry-level jobs in restaurants out of the average.
The wage increase therefore doesn’t show an increase in the wages of working people so much as a drop in the number of jobs that paid lower wages. People who were already in greater need were the ones who lost their jobs.
Wages in Puerto Rico
Average wages in all municipalities in Puerto Rico continue to be lower than those in any of the states. Juncos had the highest average weekly wage at $912. Las Marias, at $295 per week, had the lowest average wage.
Three municipalities had average weekly wages over $600, while 26 had wages under $400.
No state had average weekly wages under $600. In fact, the lowest average weekly income for any state was $884, in Idaho. Throughout the history of the United States, territories have always become more prosperous when they became states. There is no reason to think that Puerto Rico would be an exception.
Puerto Rico, along with the rest of the United States, is opening up from the pandemic and working toward economic recovery. Statehood will provide a level playing field and speed that recovery.