Monday, February 17, 2014

Running to catch up to low employment numbers

Since the early days of the Governor Eddie Calvo's administration, Guam's employment has struggled to get back to comparable levels of opportunity experienced in the first months of 2011. Shortly after Governor Calvo took office, the employment-population ratio was 54.2% (March 2011), currently the ratio stands at 52.5% (September 2013), a loss of 1.7% percentage points.  Here are some numbers to put things into perspective:

  • The labor participation rate has declined from 62.6% in March 2011 to 58.9% in September 2013.
  • Full time employment has declined by 2,270 or about 4.2% from March 2011 (54,450) to September 2011 (52,180), while part time employment has increased by 1,570.
  • From the Current Employment Reports, we can find that over the same period, average hourly private sector wages increased by only 3.2%, while the Consumer Price Index increased by 5.2%. That means that an average hour of work for production workers in September buys 1.9% less stuff than in March 2011. If this trend continues, the average private sector hourly wage will buy 5.2% less stuff by March 2019, right after the next elected governor leaves office.

The Governor's office recently issued a press release claiming victory over unemployment, proclaiming, "Unemployment Drops… in Almost Every Category." That's correct, as far as it goes, but it is terribly misleading if you don't take a longer view and look at the measures that really matter to the quality of life of many Guamanians. They also point out that those who are not in the labor force, but want a job is down. That is correct, but it probably has more to do with the length of unemployment and the loss of hope that can come with extended unemployment than a sign that things are getting better. If you look at just about any method of measuring employment without looking at misleading unemployment numbers, it's a dismal picture.

Right now, there is a little blip up in the data that indicates that maybe employment is increasing, but I'm not optimistic that there is a positive trend at this point.

Update: a good friend of mine has pointed out that I should have written 1.7 percentage points instead of 1.7%. Since he's right, I've corrected the figure. The percent change is actually -3.1%.


  1. Well-researched facts.

  2. So you counter hard evidence that the economy is improving with simple pessimistic conjecture? Anyone can be a naysayer, but to be a naysayer in the face of hard evidence of improvement just shows that the you take the contrarianism that Democrats have exhibited with our administration as gospel.

  3. Anonymous,

    You are mischaracterizing my point. I said very little about the trend of current statistics. In fact, there has been modest improvement in the numbers in recent quarters. My main point is not about the trend, but the level of employment.

    The economic facts speak for themselves and, despite disappointingly modest improvement in the employment numbers, Guam's economy is still very depressed and far too many people have been and are out of work during this current administration.