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St. Thomas 𑁋 The unemployment rate in the U.S. Virgin Islands fell for the first time since February, a report released by the Virgin Islands Department of Labor reads. The unemployment rate in the territory between January and February was 4.9 percent and 4.5 percent respectively and rose as high as 13.6 percent after forced lockdowns and business closures in response to the global pandemic.
“For June 2020, the unemployment rate for the Virgin Islands fell to 12.1 percent,” DOL officials said in a public release. “This represents an over-the-month decrease of 1.5 percent from the May estimate of 13.6 percent and an over-the-year increase of 5.7 percent since June 2019.” The last time DOL officials released unemployment figures on their public website was in December. The newest batch of statistics arrived as the number of unemployed residents began to dip in June for the first time since February.
The report did not disclose data for July and August but offers a peek into how the Virgin Islands economy was abruptly impacted by the effects of Covid-19 and global lockdowns. “Claims were revised for the reference week ending on May 16th and showed a substantial 39.2 percent increase from the preliminary level last month,” the report reads. “This caused the preliminary May rate of 11.7 percent to be revised upward to 13.6 percent. CES employment, an input into the estimates, had a minor downward revision for May which also contributed to the revision.”
For the island of St. Croix, the unemployment rate declined from 10.9 percent in May to 10.1 percent in June. For the islands of St. John and St. Thomas, unemployment declined from 15.8 percent in May to 13.7 percent in June. “This is an improvement but is the second-highest level for the islands since January 2018 with the first highest being last month,” DOL officials said.
DOL says that “the labor force is comprised of persons 16 and older who show up in our unemployment insurance wage data working full time or part-time and actively seeking employment through VIDOL Virgin Islands Department of Labor unemployment insurance claims data and the current employment statistics monthly survey of establishments.”
Governor Albert Bryan said in April that if the federal government did not move quickly to provide financial relief to the U.S. Virgin Islands, the territory would fall deeper into an economic crisis. In a Government House release issued hours later, it was revealed that the administration is seeking up to $1.1 billion in federal aid in the form of loan forgiveness, direct infusion of cash, along with the suspension of policies that typically blocks the U.S. territories from receiving the same benefits as their mainland counterparts. DOL’s latest unemployment figures reveal rising unemployment cases but were not fully available to the public when Bryan publicly announced his request to the White House. Around the same time, in April, DOL announced that it had received more than 4,000 unemployment claims, and was expecting a total of 20,000 as Covid-19 forced business closures around the territory.
“We are good for now but like most other states, we need assistance fast. Our April receipts will give us a better picture as we have been closed through the entire month of March,” Bryan said to the Consortium in April. “No matter what, we are in serious financial trouble if we don’t get some relief from the federal government. Our cash is holding for now but can’t hold forever. The $300 million in Community Disaster Loans is key to our recovery. We definitely need to get some new CDLs to remain liquid.”
Featured image courtesy of the Virgin Islands Source.