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Puerto Rico recently observed the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria—the most destructive storm to hit the Commonwealth since the San Felipe Segundo hurricane in 1928. Maria, combined with Hurricane Irma, which had glanced the island about two weeks prior, is estimated to have caused nearly 3,000 deaths and tens of billions of dollars of physical damage. Millions went without power for weeks, in most cases months. Basic services—water, sewage, telecommunications, medical care, schools—suffered massive disruptions. While it is difficult to assign a cost to all the suffering endured by Puerto Rico’s population, we can now at least get a better read on the economic effect of the storms. In this blog post, we look at a few key economic indicators to gauge the negative effects of the storms and the extent of the subsequent rebound—not only for the Commonwealth as a whole, but for its various geographic areas and industry sectors. We also examine data from the New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel to assess how well households held up financially and what effects the home mortgage foreclosure and payment moratoria had.
This week, we published our August surveys of regional manufacturers and service firms. Our Supplemental Survey Report, released this morning, reveals how these businesses view the effects of recent trade policy on their costs, prices, sales, and profits. The results suggest that recent tariffs are raising both input costs and selling prices for local businesses, and these effects appear to be more widespread for manufacturers than for service firms.
The New York Fed’s latest Beige Book report—based on information collected through July 9—points to sustained moderate growth and tight labor markets in the region. Manufacturers and wholesalers noted a persistent rise in economic activity over the first half of this year. However, a number of contacts in these sectors remarked that tariffs have raised their costs, and uncertainty about future trade policy was cited as a concern by businesses in a variety of industries. Meanwhile, businesses in most service industries continue to report flat to modestly expanding activity. And while consumer spending has remained fairly steady, consumer confidence edged up to a cyclical high, in large part due to an exceptionally positive assessment of the labor market.
In the ten months that have passed since Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the Caribbean, much interest has been focused on Puerto Rico and its roughly 3.3 million American citizens, who weathered the largest blackout in U.S. history. However, far less attention has been paid to the U.S. Virgin Islands, even though St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John, and a number of smaller islands suffered comparable devastation. This is partly attributable to their much smaller population: the U.S. Virgin Islands (“Virgin Islands”) is home to roughly 105,000 people—1/30th Puerto Rico’s population. Even so, this territory is also part of the United States and the New York Fed’s district. In this post, we examine roughly six months of economic and related data on the Virgin Islands’ economy to better ascertain the extent of disruption and subsequent recovery from the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The state of the New York City subway system has worsened considerably over the past few years. As a consequence of rising ridership and decaying infrastructure, the network is plagued by delays and frequently fails to deliver New Yorkers to their destinations on time. While these delays are a headache for anyone who depends on the subway to get around, they do not affect all riders in the same way. In this post, we explain why subway delays disproportionately affect low-income New Yorkers. We show that wealthier commuters who rely on the subway are less likely to experience extensive issues on their commutes.
Jaison R. Abel, Jason Bram, Richard Deitz, and Jonathan Hastings
An examination of the fallout from Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the economies of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was the focus of an economic press briefing today at the New York Fed. Both U.S. territories were suffering from significant economic downturns and fiscal stress well before the storms hit in September 2017, raising concerns about their paths to recovery.
The region’s services sector continues to experience solid growth, according to the New York Fed’s February Business Leaders Survey. The survey’s business climate index reached a record high, and the activity, employment, and capital spending indexes were all fairly steady at high levels, indicating continued expansion. Firms were increasingly optimistic about future business conditions, and strong gains in employment were expected in the months ahead. Notably, price pressures picked up, with the prices paid index advancing to a level not seen since 2014, and the prices received measure reaching its highest mark in six years.
Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
The New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data today released our Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the fourth quarter of 2017. Along with this report, we have posted an update of state-level data on balances and delinquencies for 2017. Overall aggregate debt balances increased again, with growth in all types of balances except for home equity lines of credit. In our post on the first quarter of 2017 we reported that overall balances had surpassed their peak set in the third quarter of 2008—the result of a slow but steady climb from several years of sharp deleveraging during the Great Recession.
Just two weeks after most of Puerto Rico dodged the proverbial bullet, missing the brunt of Hurricane Irma, the island was devastated by Maria—one of the ten strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record. Making landfall on September 20, 2017, the storm caused not only massive physical destruction and tragic loss of life but also widespread and persistent power outages, shortages of potable (and even nonpotable) running water, and disruptions to telecommunications and travel, among other issues. With the storm boosting costs and disrupting activity, the short-term economic impact is clearly significant. But an even greater concern is that the adverse short-term effects of the storm, overlaid on an already shrinking economy, may evolve into long-term adverse effects. In this post, we focus on the magnitude, duration, breadth and nature of the economic disruptions, as measured mostly by employment.
All in all, the upstate New York economy fared pretty well during the last business cycle. Job losses were less severe in upstate New York during the Great Recession than they were for the nation as a whole, which was quite unusual. And once the jobs recovery began in 2010, employment in upstate New York started to grow again, though at a pace well below the nation’s. The result of this slow but steady recovery was that by mid-2015, upstate New York had gained back all of the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession—a milestone the region had failed to reach at all during the prior few business cycles. Troublingly, though, job growth in the region stalled shortly after crossing this milestone. Indeed, only a handful of jobs have been added to the area’s total employment count since early 2016. In this blog post, we explore the nature and magnitude of this slowdown in upstate New York.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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