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P.R. Unemployment Rate At 10.8% In February

Number of jobless falls by 8,000 to 149,000


April 1, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Puerto Rico Department of Labor & Human Resources announced that the local unemployment picture improved in February. The number of unemployed fell from 157,000 in January to 149,000 in February, representing an unemployment rate of 10.8%.

There were 24,000 fewer unemployed in February than in the same month last year. The number of nonagricultural workers totaled 998,700, 7,500 more than on the payrolls in February 2003. Compared with January 2004, however, the number of nonagricultural workers decreased by 2,200 in February.

Employment figures for February show there were 5,000 more people working than in January, for a total 1.23 million workers.

Most of the job gains occurred in commerce, transportation, and utilities, as well as in health and educational services. Contractions were seen in the professional and construction areas. Industry sources said some of the job losses could be attributed to post-Christmas softening.

"In analyzing the current trend, it appears as though an economic expansion could be underway," said Jose I. Alameda, economics professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. "However, the situation also suggests the economic recovery may be being fed by only a handful of economic sectors."

Surveying the jobs landscape

Jobs surveys are conducted in two areas: commercial establishments and homes. Commercial samplings are taken through employers or direct commercial outlets. The home surveys are done through individual housing units and are meant to sample the general working population.

Some experts believe the home survey should be revised according to updated parameters of the U.S. Census Bureau. They note, for example, that the survey uses language that was P.R. unemployment rate at 10.8% in February Number of jobless falls by 8,000 to 149,000 more appropriate many years ago. Also, the operational-sample prototype refers to women as if they only had a homemaker role.

According to Alameda, the samplings could be skewed by an external factor. In 2001, he said, there was a surge in the number of women seeking jobs. An analysis revealed that a high number of this group was motivated by the need to fulfill the eligibility requirements of a federal entitlement program.

Industry sources noted that home sampling is becoming more popular in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland. Surveys of commercial establishments had been on the upswing until the transition from the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to the North American Industrial Classification System, used to classify business establishments. The new system includes 350 additional industries, 20 broad sectors (up from 10 divisions in the SIC system), and a six-digit coding system for industries (up from four digits in the SIC system).

"Regardless of the method, these surveys should mostly serve as trend indicators and, therefore, should allow for an ample margin of error. Commercial surveying, however, does offer a big positive in that it measures job-seeking through employers," said Alameda.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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