The drop in April's retail sales numbers were dragged by a contraction at gas stations.
Gas consumption in February, when prices were still under .90 cents a
liter, showed an increase.
Puerto Rico’s Economic Activity Index for February showed the first month-over-month increase, of 0.4 percent in comparison to January, since October 2010, the Government Development Bank said Sunday.
However, when comparedwithFebruary2010,theGDB-EAI showeda decreaseof 1.8percent, thelowestannualreductionsinceSeptember2007, the GDB said.
“What thesestatisticsmeanis that theeconomyhassloweditsfallcomparedtolast yearand isbeginningtorise,” saidGDB PresidentJuanCarlosBatlle.
Ofthefourindicatorsthatmake uptheGDB-EAI —employment, cement sales, electricity consumptionand fuel consumption — three showedan increasein Februarycomparedtothe same monthlastyear, the agency noted. The GDB-EAI is a report published monthly that explains the current status of the economy.
In February, there were 917,700 salaried workers, an increase of 5,300 jobs compared with the previous month. Although that number still represents a decrease of 1.6 percent compared with February 2010, is the smallest annual decrease in this indicator since December 2008. Within employment, however, the service sector continues to grow, having added 6,800 jobs in February 2010 to February 2011, an increase of 2.3 percent.
Cement salesinFebruaryreached1.6 millionbags, up 5.2 percentcomparedwiththe samemonth last year. This isthesecondlargest increaseon-yearsinceApril2008, the index showed. Cement sales are a key economic indicator, as it reflects activity in real estate development. That indicator has been dropping or stagnating consistently in the past two or three years.
Electricity consumption also reflected an increase, despite the rise in the cost of oil. In February there was a consumption of 1.391 kWh, an increase of 2 percent compared with February last year, the first annual increase in electricity consumption since June 2010, the index showed.
Gasoline consumption also increased in February, when 84.7 million gallons were consumed, 13.7 percent more than in the same month last year.
“The February 2011GDB-EAIshowsthatPuerto Ricoisina periodofeconomic stabilization.Despitethesignificantly higher pricesof oil, we see arise inconsumptionofelectricityandgasoline, which showsanupward movementin economic activity. In addition, we notethat theloss ofjobshas declined, and insome sectors, such astheservicesector, there has indeedbeenan increaseinsalaried employment,” said Batlle.
The GDB’s index findings are in line with the comments made Friday by Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley, who said the island is showing signs of economic improvement, en route to a possible end of the recession.
“Since mid-2010 there have been promising signs: Recently released revisions suggest that job growth on the island, while still very weak, improved modestly since last summer. And most of the weakness since then has not been broad-based, but instead concentrated in construction and manufacturing,” said Dudley in a presentation during the E-3 Summit of the Americas conference in San Juan.
Meanwhile, Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Jose Pérez-Riera said the positive trendis not only evident in the GDB-EAI, “but also inotherindicatorssuch asauto sales,retail sales, an upturn in the tourism industry, among others,toreconfirmthatoureconomy isin the processrecovery.”
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Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.