87.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Nov. 5, 2001 – A total of 799 people have applied for unemployment benefits in the Virgin Islands since Sept. 11, compared to normal numbers of 25 to 50 per month, Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin said Monday.
"Most are attributed to layoffs in travel- related industries," he said.
Since the terrorist attacks on the mainland, the St. Thomas-St. John district has been harder hit than St. Croix, mainly because of having the bulk of the territory's tourism-related jobs, Benjamin said. St. Croix, with the huge Hovensa refinery and relatively little cruise ship business, has more industrial than tourism-sector workers.
There have been 509 applicants for benefits on St. Thomas and St. John and 290 on St. Croix, he said, with about a hundred businesses affected. Of these, he said, 22 are hotels and most of the others are small businesses such as restaurants that rely on island visitors.
Dave Barber, Labor Department supervisor of surveys and systems, said the V.I. unemployment rate for September (calculated from data gathered on Sept. 12 and therefore not reflecting the impact of the Sept. 11 attacks) stood at 7.6 percent overall — 9 percent on St. Croix and 6 percent on St. Thomas/St. John. He predicted the rate would rise for October and November.
The October statistics are expected to be available at the end of November.
"We're seeing only the beginning of what will follow Sept. 11," Barber said. He said workers laid off because of the territory's sudden tourism slump began applying for benefits on Sept. 17, six days after the attacks. "It got worse, and it has been downhill since then," he said. He noted that layoffs are normal in September as the number of visitors drops, but usually things start to pick up by October and November. "I don't think we'll see that usual upturn," he said.
Benjamin was more optimistic. He predicted that the situation will improve in three to six months, with noticeable improvements by January. "It's a temporary setback," he said.
Barber compared the situation to the months that followed Hurricane Marilyn in September 1995. Back then, unemployment rose to a high of 9.4 percent territorywide — 10.7 percent on St. Thomas/St. John, which was harder hit by the hurricane, and 7.5 percent on St. Croix.
The territory's employment situation was looking bright before Sept. 11, Barber said, with the number of persons employed this past September up by 1,250 over September 2000 figures. There were 1,400 more construction jobs and 500 more retail jobs compared with a year earlier. However, the September figures showed a loss of 290 jobs in manufacturing and 270 in the service industry.
Benjamin said the unemployment benefit in the Virgin Islands is $312 a week for up to 26 weeks — the same for all workers, no matter what their wages. He said that Congress is considering extending unemployment benefits for another 13 weeks.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.