SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s level of unemployment remains high due to a deep recession that the island will not emerge from in the short term, according to estimates by the U.S. commonwealth’s leading economists.
Unemployment for June stood at 16.6 percent, a slight reduction of 0.2 percent from the figure in May and a negligible change for the president of the Association of Economists of Puerto Rico, Martha Quiñones.
The figures released by the Department of Labor and Human Resources show that the number of unemployed in Puerto Rico last month totaled 217,000, down 2,000 from the number in May.
Quiñones told Efe on Tuesday that one of the reasons that could explain this slight improvement in unemployment is the constant emigration of people from Puerto Rico, most of them heading for the continental United States.
Also a possible factor in the slight drop in unemployment is the fact that some of the thousands of public employees laid off months ago by Gov. Luis Fortuño’s administration stopped receiving unemployment benefits, which forced them to accept some type of work.
“The situation is stagnant and there have been no changes,” Quiñones emphasized regarding the Caribbean island’s economy, now in its fourth year of recession.
“Contradictions exist in how economic policies are being carried out,” said Quiñones, who added that “no light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.”
She said that the island’s economy “is not improving.”
Puerto Rico’s head of the Department of Labor and Human Resources, Miguel Romero, said recently that in the short term the only thing that can be foreseen is a slight reduction in unemployment in the U.S. commonwealth.
Fortuño has sent signals regarding the alleged improvement in the island’s economy in recent months, but he has not declared the crisis to be at an end.
The governor recalled last month that the index of economic activity had increased in May for the fourth consecutive month, an early sign of recovery.
Fortuño at the time attributed part of the economic improvement to the Public Private Alliances promoted by the government that include the entry of private initiative into public companies via concessions.
The project standing out most in this regard include the construction of a natural gas plant in the southern part of the island, the plans to improve the San Juan airport and the Port of the Americas project in Ponce, which could generate up to 5,000 new jobs. EFE