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BDE: Most economic indicators show growth through first 10 months of 2021


Economic Development Bank President Luis Alemañy González

By The Star Staff


Puerto Rico experienced economic growth despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, Economic Development Bank (BDE by its Spanish initials) President Luis Alemañy González says.


In a report issued over the weekend, Alemañy González said although the commercial sector shows some signs of fragility due to the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the statistics compiled by the BDE reflect a 23.6 percent increase in retail sales during the first 10 months of 2021 for a total of $30.4 billion compared to the same period in 2020.


Sales tax reflected a similar growth pattern, showing an increase of 9.5 percent for the first 10 months of 2021 for a total of $2 billion, but this figure is 16.1 percent below the sales tax revenues from 2019.


Similarly, jobs in the retail sector increased 6.9 percent during the first 11 months of 2021 versus what was reported in 2020, but the sector has not recovered the level of employment it had prior to the pandemic.


“When analyzing the different sectors, we see an economic improvement that shows the recovery process,” Alemañy González said. “Statistics in the construction and manufacturing industry are other variables that we can weigh in this analysis.”


For example, construction employment reflected an increase of 14.1 percent between January and November 2021, for a total of 30,100 jobs compared to the same period in 2020. The BDE’s Center for Economic Studies includes noted economists Gladys Medina and Juan Carlos González.


At the same time, within the first 11 months of 2021, there was a 16 percent rise in cement sales for a total of 14.4 million bags. In fact, the levels reached during the current year are comparable to those reported in 2014.


Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector continued on an upward trajectory in the first 11 months of 2021, registering an increase of 5.5 percent in the number of employees, for a total of 77,900 salaried jobs. A fact that Alemañy González highlighted when analyzing this sector is that the total number of workers is 3.7 percent higher than that registered in 2019.


As presented in the economic summary carried out by the BDE, manufacturing has been growing for 15 consecutive months year-on-year, largely due to an increase in the production of medicines and medical equipment in areas close to the United States.


Another indicator that has gained importance is the sales of cars and trucks, which between January and November 2021 registered an increase of 23.5 percent compared to 2019, reaching the figure of 117,338 units. The report noted that this indicator has in three of the last four years closed with positive year-on-year changes, so it is expected to stabilize in the next year.


The BDE summary also shows that gasoline consumption remains relatively the same, reflecting a slight increase of 0.6 percent during the first 11 months of 2021 compared to the same period of 2020 due to the fact that working from home is becoming more and more common.


Another variable that will be revised in 2022 and shows an increase of 3.1 percent is non-agricultural salaried employment, which shows a total of 855,300 jobs in the first 11 months of 2021. The variable is expected to continue to increase, according to a study by the Reserve Bank of New York that showed that salaried employment in Puerto Rico must exceed the number of registered jobs by 20,000 to 30,000 additional positions.


Meanwhile, the average of the BDE’s Economic Activity Index, although it suffered a decrease of 1.7 percent during fiscal year 2020, experienced an increase of 2.8 percent between January and November 2021.


“The economy of Puerto Rico faces many challenges, but within all the challenges we are registering encouraging indicators,” Alemañy González said. “We began to work from day one at the Economic Development Bank to facilitate this economic growth and we will continue to fight with the same impetus in 2022 in favor of entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico.”

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