Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

May 2012: When Will the Economy Return to “Normal”?

An analysis of fiscal 2011 and forecast of the PR economy

The greatest difficulty in assessing the current economic situation is that this cycle is not the traditional boom-bust cycle, as anyone following economic news lately can attest. The ongoing situation is better described as a structural social and economic adjustment driven by both demographics and a reshaping of PR’s productive base that will, undoubtedly, redefine what “normal” means in PR.  Both are partly dependent on each other but also respond to different contexts. Demographics, in particular, is a formidable analytical challenge as the economic consequences of changes in the Island’s resident population are hard to even imagine. The “allocation of resources” question, the second issue at hand, will determine the Island’s economic landscape in coming decades.  This issue of the Pulse examines the signs that can we expect as the economy begins to re-write what normalcy is. These might surprise you.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

April 2012: An Indictment of Fiscal Discipline in PR

Assessing the impact of government budget cuts & public debt

We examine Puerto Rico’s experience with budget cutting since fiscal 2009. The goal of said “fiscal discipline”, i.e. spending cuts and tax increases, was to preserve the investment grade or credit rating of PR’s public debt by Moody’s and S&P’s rating agencies. This tighter fiscal policy reinforced the contraction of PR’s economy, which started in fiscal 2007 and continued thru fiscal 2011. Cuts in government outlays increased unemployment and were not offset by strength in consumer spending, nor in residential and non-residential investment nor in export growth. Despite lower interest rates, the private sector did not invest given the glut of residential housing, bank consolidation, and a global financial crisis that caused a recession in the US and Europe. Find out how the government deficit was financed? You cannot hike taxes and cut spending without impacting growth. Has PR protected the investment rating of its public debt? What will it take to recover a growth path in the island?

Puerto Rico Compass ©

Q1 2012: Is Consumption Coming Back?

An analysis of 1st Quarter 2012 economic indices in PR

Since 2009, Puerto Rico has attempted to regain fiscal sustainability and market confidence. We have been staring into the headlights of a protracted economic recession without gradually realigning our economy to a sustainable position of economic growth. Despite high levels of unemployment and bankruptcies, there are signs that consumption may be coming back. Consumer expenditures run at about 90% of GNP in Puerto Rico, so consumption growth will play an important part in determining the pace of PR growth. This issue presents an analysis of HCCG’s economic indices for the first quarter 2012, with particular emphasis on consumption. Has consumption recovered to pre-recession levels of 2006? How have different components of consumption performed? How long is the path to complete recovery? Also, find out how other indicators, such as construction, have also posted positive growth during this quarter.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

March 2012: It Takes Investment to Grow the Economy

An analysis of fiscal 2011 and forecast of the PR economy

As fiscal 2011 ended last June 2011, official data is estimated to once again post a contraction in real GNP growth for the PR economy. The island has had five years of recession, defined as negative real annual growth of its GNP. The crisis has exerted negative pressure on all sectors of the economy. The Government has continued to raise PR’s heavy public debt, a challenge that will adversely impact the fiscal outlook of the central government and its public corporations. Construction has been hardest hit with repeated declines in public and private investment, which continue to hamper future economic growth. Consumer sentiment seems to be less negative given the modest increase in car and other retail sales. Unemployment is high and inflation is inching higher with increased oil prices. This issue offers subscribers the opportunity to review the economic outlook and weave the internal and external economic threats present in this election year and in the near term future.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

February 2012: The Recession’s Collateral Damage: Jobs

Analysis of Puerto Rico’s labor market

This is the worst recession in Puerto Rico’s history. The island economy has contracted 13% since FY 2006 or the past five years. Given this negative growth in recent years, the labor market is experiencing the consequences. What are these impacts? Is there any recovery in sight that will generate badly needed and well paid jobs in the current labor market? This issue analyzes those sectors that have lost most jobs and how trends in the labor force can give different meanings to the performance of the unemployment rate. A common misconception is that a decline in the unemployment rate is by definition is always a positive result. Find out when it is not. The recession has raised the structural rate of unemployment, reducing labor supply and potential output.The island faces many challenges ahead. Nobody said economic recovery in PR would be easy. Simply put: a shortage of jobs is bad for economic growth.

Puerto Rico Economic Pulse ©

January 2012: The Economic Consequences of Less People

An analysis of the wrong direction of causality

Puerto Rico’s current economic situation, just like that of any country, reflects both temporary and long-term effects. Many of the long-term economic processes, in turn, are supported by what economists call “structural” variables. These are variables that determine the type of economic activity and the manner in which it takes place. During the last decade, Puerto Rico witnessed a significant change in one such variable—population—coupled with an unprecedented economic downturn. The Island lost significant income, wealth and people. In peacetime, and barring any major natural disaster, such events are far from the norm, although they are not unusual. This issue of the Pulse, the fifth installment of a series dedicated to analyze PR’s population shift, will examine the socioeconomic dynamics that took place during the last decade with particular emphasis on demographic data for all municipalities in Puerto Rico. The results will surprise you.