Passengers leaving Luis Muñoz Marín Airport

>File photo

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has deepened the critical economic crisis that has engulfed Puerto Rico for over a decade, which could result in 300,000 Puerto Ricans emigrating in the next two years to seek better opportunities.

According to a study conducted by investigation firm Inteligencia Económica, economic losses attributed to the virus on the island will exceed $10 billion, while a total 417,000 jobs—46.8 percent of the 870,800 existing jobs in Puerto Rico—will be impacted directly.

Given this, the firm estimates that a second migration wave of 300,000 people could take place between 2020 and 2022, which would lower the population to roughly 2.7 million people. This, in addition to the 600,000 people who left the island from 2010 to 2019 as a result of the prolonged economic stagnancy.

This decline would be greater than the one registered after Hurricane Maria. After the historic storm ravaged the island in 2017, in 2018 142,000 people moved elsewhere. This constituted a 4.3-percent decline of the population compared to the previous year, leaving the island with 3,195,153 residents. This is the largest decrease registered to date.

Regarding employment, Inteligencia Económica stated that the coronavirus has caused more job losses than Hurricane Maria.

"Maria destroyed 50,000 jobs that never fully recovered. COVID-19—so far—has caused unemployment for 350,000 private workers, nearly 50 percent of the private sector," the agency explained.

"In 2019, employment in Puerto Rico rose to 870,000, of which 650,000 were private, and 220,000 were generated by the government. The current crisis places 343,000 jobs from five important industries at risk. If 25 percent of those jobs were lost, 85,000 jobs would be lost permanently. That is 13 percent of total private employment," the firm warned.

Likewise, inteligencia Económica detailed that jobs related to retailers, restaurants, hotels, health, and autos are at a higher risk. Those industries generate roughly 343,000 direct jobs that could be endangered.

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