Guam unemployment at the highest level it’s ever been

Guam Department of Labor chief economist Gary Hiles (PNC file photo)

The unemployment on Guam is at the highest level it’s ever been since the Guam Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting unemployment statistics in the mid-1970s.

This was reported by Guam Department of Labor Chief Economist Gary Hiles during Friday’s economic outlook webinar hosted by the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

According to Hiles, Guam had a 17.3 percent unemployment rate because of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Despite this, Hiles said some industries remain remarkably stable.

“In fact, it’s interesting that construction has gone up over the year, we have more H2 workers, more people employed, as there’s a backlog of construction on Guam,” Hiles said.

However, all of the industries related to tourism, transportation, retail, trade, finance, hotels, and other services have declined.

In the hotels and lodging places, in particular, Hiles said the number of hours worked has gone down dramatically from an average of 36.5 in December 2019 to 15.1 at present.

“That’s almost a 15% reduction in total hours work. Overall, that’s a big impact on the economy and people’s revenue, in addition to the reduction in jobs,” Hiles said.

The high unemployment and drop in total work hours were cushioned a bit by the payroll protection program funding that enabled employers to keep people on staff even if they don’t have enough business to support it.

“And the other is primarily the unemployment insurance program, which provides people who had reduced income or lost income with the funds to expand money supply on the island and keep the demand and other sectors strong,” Hiles said.

He added that the increase in federal expenditures on Guam has also been keeping the island economy afloat.

“They’ve been increasing every little bit every year since 2016. So in the context of the size of the economy, this represents more than 10% of the total revenue of all business establishments on Guam,” Hiles said.