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Job Postings in Territory Down, Unemployment Claims Up

Dec. 15, 2008 — The U.S. Department of Labor's announcement that employment growth in St. Thomas rose by 3.1 percent in March is old news, according to Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan.
"We've had such a drastic downturn in the economy," he said.
While there are no quarterly statistics for the last quarter of 2008 because the time period isn't over, Bryan said there is a drop off in the job postings at the Labor Department, a sure sign that things are sliding downward.
"Any way you put it, things are not looking great," he said.
Additionally, there was a spike in filings for unemployment claims in September and October, which Bryan said was steeper than what the department normally sees during the slowest months in the territory's tourism-based economy.
The biggest job losses came in the construction and retail/hospitality sectors, Bryan said.
A graph on the Labor Department's website tells the story. In September, 607 people applied for unemployment. The figure dropped to 357 in October and 330 in November, but the September figure in particular is significantly higher than the same time period a year ago.
In September 2007, 247 people across the territory applied for unemployment. The October figure was 293 and the November number was 213.
The September 2006 statistics show that 219 people applied for unemployment. A total of 235 people applied in October 2006, with 114 applying in November 226.
In December 2007, 156 people applied for unemployment. The number stood at 116 in December 2006.
While there was some seasonality in the September, October and November figures, it's clear that they're also related to the poor economy, said the Labor Department's Gary Halyard, director of the Labor Statistics Bureau.
And he said that many workers had their hours cut and are collecting partial unemployment. The territory will start to get a truer picture of what's happening with the economy in the first quarter of 2009, Halyard said.
However, he suggested that the mainland economic problems will really hit home in the Virgin Islands by late 2009 and early 2010.
The federal Labor Department report on March unemployment statistics showed that St. Thomas had 24,100 people employed. St. Croix had 19,800 workers and St. John, 2,500.
Workers on St. Croix earned the most, with the average at $803 per week. The weekly wages on St. Thomas for the first quarter stood at $637 and, on St. John, at $652. The national average was $905, but workers in nearby Puerto Rico earned an average of $489.
The highest average weekly wage in the country was $1,488 in Washington, D.C. New York followed with workers earning an average of $1,399. Of all the states, workers in Montana earned the least, with the average weekly wage running $625.
The statistics are important because they provide data that helps in getting government grants, Halyard said.
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