Immeasurable Damage to Puerto Rico's Economy


There has been considerable discussion regarding the impacts of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria on the economies of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. There have been comments made that the three hurricanes have impacted the unemployment claims data. If that is sending unemployment claims, continuing claims and first-time claims to levels comparable to the same week of 1970, extremely low, with over 80 million more covered insured workers, then the hurricanes have boosted the US economy. The timing of the hurricanes meant that the August Jobs Report, or Employment Situation Report, did not capture jobs lost or the unemployment spike. This column wrote a series of articles to assess the pre-Hurricane situations for the three areas:

  • "August, Texas, Employment and Unemployment" There was a rare spike in August Unemployment. Two sectors had not returned to pre-recession levels.
  • "Florida, August Jobs and Unemployment, Pre-Irma" Florida had four sectors that had not returned to pre-recession levels. Unemployment was at the lowest level of workers who were unemployed since April of 2008
  • "Puerto Rico's Fragile Employment Situation." â€‹Unemployment Seven Sectors had fewer workers than prior to the recession. Government has the largest number of workers. Unemployment was at 11.7%.
  • The September Jobs Report was released the first week of October. The release of the report included unemployment data and worker data for the nation as a whole. The sector data revealed a Super Surge in Government Workers and those in the Education and Health Care Sectors and a huge drop in Leisure and Hospitality Workers.


There are a number of ways to look at the data. What are the normal month to month changes in the private and public sectors? What are the normal year to year changes? What happened to the unemployment level and the unemployment rate?

Immeasurable Damage to Puerto Rico Labor Market - Literally. The Current Employment Statistics (CES) data measures the number of workers in the economy. The Current Population Survey (CPS) measures the number of full-time and part-time jobs in the economy, plus the number of unemployed workers, plus it estimates the number of workers in the workforce population. The unemployment rate and participation rates are determined using the CPS data. You must be able to survey people and businesses for the Household (CPS) data and the Employers for the Establishment data (CES.) No surveys, no data. The damage to the Puerto Rican job market has been immeasurable. The September State Employment and Unemployment Report provides us more insight on what the current impacts of the hurricanes are on Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico,


Month to Month - Texas Saw Improvement. Unemployment took a deep dive, month to month in Texas. Texas has seen growth in almost every sector since 2007, the peak of the pre-recession job market. Information Technology (IT) has faltered as has manufacturing. Both of these reflect the national trend. Texas saw stronger than normal hiring in Construction and Government. Florida saw growth in Mining/Logging and Government. The non-seasonally adjusted data fell in most categories as Summer came to an end

Year to Year Growth for Both Texas and Florida. We have seen broad-based growth in Texas. Only two sectors had fewer workers in Texas than they had last year: Mining and Manufacturing. Only two sectors in Florida  had fewer workers than last September - Mining and Information Technology. It is down across the country. Manufacturing is down, across the country.


Unemployment is down month to month for both Texas and Florida. The weekly unemployment claims report keeps repeating that the unemployment data has been impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Texas and Florida have seen their levels drop. That is not the impact that is being implied.


It may be months before the data for the employment and unemployment data from Puerto Rico may be available. There are more pressing issues than a piece of paper in Puerto Rico. The year to year growth rates for employment in Texas and Florida are slower than they were last year - they are still growing. Texas is gorwing  than faster during 2017 than it did during September of 2015, and 2016. Florida is growing slower than it did during September 2015 and 2016. We have never had this level of jobs during September. The weekly and continuing unemployment claims data during September was comparable to 1970 for the weeks closest to the employment situation survey date. The economy is rolling. Jobs are still growing. It may be that these hurricanes are getting some people back to work to help rebuild their states after catastrophic hurricane damage.


It's the economy.

Jack Dunn - Reclaiming Common Sense