Non-farm payroll in Puerto Rico for the month of September in 2021 totaled 862.5 thousand workers. Compared to the previous month of August, non-farm payroll increased by 1.8 thousand, or 0.2%. Compared to September 2020, non-farm payroll increased by 24.6, or 2.9%. When compared to March 2020, the last month before the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on employment were seen, non-farm payroll is still down 24.8 thousand workers, or 2.8%.
Since September 2020, many large employment categories have seen increases. Some of the largest increases have been 10,700 (16% increase) in recreation and lodging, 4,900 (4%) in retail sales, 2,800 (10.4%) in construction, and 2,400 (3.2%) in manufacturing. The only major employment categories that have decreased their total since September 2020 have been professional, scientific, and technical services (-3.2%), finance (-2.5%), and government (-2.5%).
There are three major employment categories that have surpassed their pre-pandemic total. Employment in construction has surpassed its March 2020 total by 2,000, or 7.2%. Growth in this industry can be expected to continue with the large amount of federal reconstruction funds that will arrive on the island. There will also be CDBG grants available that will have a substantial impact on this category. The next category is manufacturing. Employment in this sector has increased relative to March 2020 by 2,100, or 2.8%. Supply chain issues may affect growth in this industry. The next category is retail sales, which has increased by 1,000, or 0.8%. Given that this was one of the most harshly affected categories, this growth is remarkable. With high levels of vaccination on the island, we can consider this recovery in retail employment to be sustainable.
There are several categories which have yet to reach their pre-pandemic total employment. Employment in information is down 3,800, or 20.3%, while employment in finance is down by 2,600, or 5.8%. Employment in hotels and restaurants is down by 4,100, 5.4%. This last one is of note since hotel registration totals are at their highest point since Hurricane Maria. This would indicate that hotels have been operating with fewer workers.
Overall, employment has yet to recover from the pandemic shock. There is reason for optimism in that major categories have surpassed their pre-pandemic total. There is also the distortionary effect on enhanced unemployment benefits, which expired in September. It remains to be seen whether their expiring will have a substantial effect on employment heading into the last trimester of the year.