EDB: Key indicators show Puerto Rico’s economic recovery in ’21
Several positive indicators point to an economic improvement on the island during 2021 in the face of the great losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Puerto Rico Economic Development Bank President Luis Alemañy said.
The agency’s Center for Economic Studies — headed by Economists Gladys Medina and Juan Carlos Gonzalez — offered a rundown of the island’s key economic guides that showed the performance of the different sectors.
Although the commercial sector shows some signs of fragility due to the restrictive measures that have been ordered to contain the spread of COVID-19, the statistics compiled reflect a 23.6% increase in retail sales during the first 10 months of 2021, for a total of $30.4 billion compared to the same period of 2020.
This is coupled with sales tax collections reflecting a similar pattern, since they showed an increase of 9.5% in the same period, slightly exceeding $2 billion, but this figure is 16.1% below 2019 collections.
Meanwhile, jobs in this sector increased 6.9% during the first 11 months of 2021 versus what was reported in 2020, but it has not recovered the level of employment prior to the pandemic, the government agency stated.
“When analyzing the different sectors, we see an economic improvement that shows the recovery process. Statistics in the construction and manufacturing industry are other variables that we can weigh in this analysis,” said Alemañy.
For example, construction employment reflected an increase of 14.1% between January and November 2021, for a total of 30,100 jobs compared to the same period in 2020.
At the same time, in the same period there was a 16% increase in cement sales during 2021 for a total of 14.4 million bags. The levels reached during the current year can compare with those reported in 2014, the agency noted.
Meanwhile, during the same period, the manufacturing sector continued an upward track, registering an increase of 5.5% in the number of employees, for a total of 77,900 salaried jobs. Alemañy noted — when analyzing this sector — is that the total number of workers is 3.7% higher than that registered in 2019.
The economic summary shows that this indicator has been growing year-on-year for 15 consecutive months, largely due to an increase in the production of medicines and medical equipment in nearshore areas to the United States mainland.
Another notable indicator is vehicle sales, which between January and November 2021 registered an increase of 23.5% to reach 117,338 units compared to 2019. This indicator has closed during three of the last four years with positive year-on-year changes, so it is expected to stabilize next year, Alemañy said.
The EDB’s numbers also show that gasoline consumption remains relatively the same, reflecting a slight increase of 0.6% during the first 11 months of 2021 compared to the same period of 2020 because working from home has gained momentum.
Another variable that will be revised in 2022 and reflects an increase of 3.1% is non-agricultural salaried employment for a total of 855,300 jobs in the first 11 months of 2021. This increase will widen according to a study by the Reserve Bank of New York, which reflected that salaried employment in Puerto Rico likely exceeds the number of registered jobs by 20,000 to 30,000 additional positions.
Meanwhile, although the Puerto Rico Economic Development Bank’s Economic Activity Index suffered a decrease of 1.7% during fiscal year 2020, it experienced an increase of 2.8% between January and November 2021. The increase is greater, 3.6%, when analyzing the first five months of fiscal year 2022, between last July and November, the government agency noted.
“Puerto Rico’s economy faces many challenges, but within all the challenges we registered encouraging indicators,” he said.
“Since day one, we began to work to facilitate this economic growth and we’ll continue to fight with the same momentum in 2022 in favor of entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico,” Alemañy said.