Guam's unemployment jumps to highest rate at 19.4%

GETTING HELP: Claimants wait for their Pandemic Unemployment Assistance appointment at the Department of Labor's satellite location in October 2020 at the Yona Public Library. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Unemployment jumped to 19.4% in December 2020 - that’s the highest rate Guam has seen, according to the Guam Department of Labor.

That percentage represents roughly 13,850 people. 

December’s numbers are higher than September’s 17.9% and December 2019’s rate of 6.1%. 

According to the Guam Department of Labor, pandemic-related job losses began to be reflected in the March 2020 job numbers which declined in tourism related industries. 

From March to June 2020 an additional 5,870 private sector workers lost their jobs.

In September 2020 the rate of private sector job loss declined for the quarter to 2,270 but the total losses increased to 7,980 and the average weekly hours paid decreased from 36.2 to 31.1 over the year, GDOL stated. 

According to the unemployment report, the largest job reductions by industry through September 2020 were:

• Retail trade: 3,440

• Hotels: 2,800

• All other services: 1,530

• Transportation and public utilities: 900

Employment began a partial rebound in December 2020 with employment increasing by 990 jobs and average weekly private sector hours paid from 31.1 to 32.9.

Construction is the only industry to show growth over the year increasing from 7,350 to 8,330 jobs in December 2020.

“Much like Hawaii, a large share of our economy is tourism related. Hotels and anything that relied on tourism declined due to the pandemic. But because almost all of our tourists are international, recovery is more complex,” said Gary Hiles, Guam Department of Labor chief economist.

Asia’s vaccine rate has been low in comparison to the U.S.

Retail trade is another industry hit hard by the pandemic. In order to contain the spread of the coronavirus, many operations had to cease while the island’s Pandemic Condition of Readiness levels fluctuated. Other businesses opted to close due to a lack of customers.

1,500 new business licenses issued

According to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s State of the Island Address, 1,500 new business licenses were issued between March and September of 2020. Businesses had to adapt and it’s evident as we see more food and commodity delivery services, curbside pick-up and ready-to-go meals, the press release stated. 

According to the Guam Daily Post files, fiscal 2020 saw 1,074 business license cancellations. There were 2,544 new business licenses issued, based on Department of Revenue and Taxation data. 

GDOL official said the entrepreneurial spirit has come alive and these new adaptations will probably continue to stay with us beyond recovery.

“We’re seeing a restoration of employment in some industries in addition to construction. The Guam Department of Labor’s recovery efforts through the National Dislocated Worker Grant program also created new jobs for hundreds of individuals,” said GDOL Director David Dell’Isola. “We will be shifting this grant money toward up-skilling and retraining opportunities to in-demand occupations as our service providers open up classrooms and start to offer programs.”

Recovery ongoing 

Officials continue to note that Guam still has a long way to go in terms of recovering from the economic slump caused by global pandemic. 

The recovery efforts, which include low COVID-19 new cases, are being acknowledged by Washington D.C. officials stated.

"The economy will continue to improve as restrictions are eased, more people get vaccinated and as the confidence in public safety grows. Guam will see the largest impact when the tourists and the industry return," officials stated. 

For more information, visit www.bls.guam.gov. All of the latest unemployment and employment reports are available with more details including graphs and charts.

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