Employment in Puerto Rico

If you’re reading the discussions of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis in the news, you’re seeing that economic development for Puerto Rico is a frequent topic.

After all, if Puerto Rico’s economy continues to shrink, how can Puerto Rico expect to pay off the debt that takes center stage in those discussions?

Puerto Rico is already cutting back on essential services. Schools have closed and the University of Puerto Rico is worrying about losing accreditation. Health care in Puerto Rico is in crisis, and will be worse off if the new federal budget is approved. And people continue to leave at an increasing rate.

Losing people from the workforce may help Puerto Rico’s unemployment stats — after all, fewer residents means fewer unemployed people. But it will be a serious problem as Puerto Rico begins to get back on her feet.

Here are the newest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Unemployment in Puerto Rico is at 11.7%, while unemployment in the United States as a whole is at 5.1%.
  • Average weekly wages in Puerto Rico stand at $553.00, while average weekly wages in the U.S. as a whole are $1,027.

Remember, the U.S. average includes Puerto Rico. It’s only when Puerto Rico is shown individually that we see these lower numbers. Puerto Rico continues to be worse off than any of the 50 states, and this is not a coincidence. Puerto Rico’s economic position is a reflection of a century of territorial status.

We cannot ignore the fact that many of the recommendations in the Task Force on Economic Development’s report would just require that Puerto Rico be treated like a state. When Puerto Rico becomes a state, these changes will take place automatically.

Could they take place while Puerto Rico is still a territory? The House just refused to treat Puerto Rico equally with states in the matter of Medicaid. Congress has in fact had many chances over the years to treat Puerto Rico equally with the states. But the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to treat territories differently. And, with no voting members in Congress, Puerto Rico has usually been treated differently.

States have rights. Territories? Not so much.

Unemployment in Puerto Rico is more than twice as high as in the United States as a whole, while wages come to just a little more than half as much. As a state, Puerto Rico will immediately have fair treatment under federal law, and will have a realistic chance of improving the local economy. Sign the petition now.

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