The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is sharing information about how employment looked at the end of 2019 — before the earthquakes, before the pandemic. This was the new normal for a little while.
The good news is the blue chart below, showing that employment picked up a little in Puerto Rico as a whole and in San Juan. The U.S. as a whole, with a 1.1 percent uptick in employment, was below both Puerto Rico and San Juan.
The bad news is that wages actually fell slightly in San Juan and in Puerto Rico as a whole.
Average weekly wage in the third quarter of 2019 in San Juan was $637. The average weekly wage for the U.S. overall was $1,093 — a 3.6% increase. That’s higher than any municipality in Puerto Rico, though Juncos had the highest average weekly wage at $868. Las Marias had the lowest weekly wage on average, at $305. For all of Puerto Rico, the average is $528, a bit less than half of the U.S. average.
Now, with inessential businesses closed, many more people are out of work. Governor Wanda Vazquez has announced a plan to give cash payments to individuals and businesses across the Island to help reduce the economic effects of the aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Economic effects of the pandemic
What will be the economic effects? The government’s Fiscal Plan made some predictions:
- Competition from states for disaster funds
- Slowing tourism, when Puerto Rico had been seeing growth in that industry
- Potential opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry
Puerto Rico has already been dealing with the problem of its inability to access funds that have been allocated by Congress. Additional funds have been promised in the recent bills designed to respond to the pandemic, but Puerto Rico will have to figure out how to receive and spend the funds.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to ramp up production in Puerto Rico’s 49 FDA-approved pharmaceutical plants will also be a valuable step. By taking aggressive steps to contain the virus, Puerto Rico may be in a stronger position to get back to work sooner than some states.