Puerto Rico’s population was on a steady decline throughout 2013.
According to the most recent US Census, the territory lost 36,459 residents between July 2012 and July 2013. This represents about one percent of the entire population and marks the third year in a row that Puerto Rico has experienced a marked decline.
Citizens apparently started leaving the country en masse back in 2010. Between 2010 and 2011, 34,628 reportedly fled the country. This number jumped a bit between 2011 and 2012, a period that saw 35,035 residents leave the territory. As of 2012, approximately 3.6 million call Puerto Rico home.
Why are people leaving the territory by the tens of thousands? Cato Institute policy analyst Juan Carlos Hidalgo told the US News and World Report that Puerto Rico’s economic instability is currently forcing people to look for work elsewhere. The unemployment rate was reportedly perched at 14 percent as of November.
“Puerto Rico is facing a severe Greek-style recession. The last decade, from 2001 to 2011, it was the first decade that the number of Puerto Ricans actually dropped on the island,” Hidalgo explained.
He added, “The problem with Puerto Rico’s economy is mostly homemade. They have a huge public sector that through all the years overspent.”
Many residents are fleeing the territory in search of jobs in mainland US as a result of Puerto Rico’s eight-year recession. Although the unemployment rate started to improve back in 2011, things started to look extremely grim once again in 2012.
“It’s a tendency we’re aware of and which the Governor and his staff have incorporated into the agenda of their government,” Puerto Rican Chief of Staff Ingrid Vila recently told El Nuevo Dia during an interview.
She continued, “Improving public security and encouraging the development of work opportunities in the country. That’s been our focus over the past year and it will continue to be that during the year that’s beginning.”
Vila said the government is looking to improve the quality of life throughout the country in hopes that people will stop leaving the territory in record numbers. Despite their desire to create jobs and develop work opportunities for the unemployed, folks are still leaving the territory in search of a better lifestyle.
Besides Puerto Rico, the only other US territory or state that comes close to experiencing this level of decline is West Virginia. The latest census shows that the state lost 0.13 percent of its population July 2012 and July 2013. However, this doesn’t come close to matching the mass exodus experienced by the island territory.
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