V.I.'s GDP tumbles by two-thirds as payroll holds steady


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ST. THOMAS - Though the territory's revenue dropped from $19.5 billion in 2007 to $6.8 billion in 2012, its annual payroll to employees has hardly budged from $1.1 billion, according to an economic report from the U.S. Census.

In late 2012, between October and December, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau sent out about 3,000 30-question surveys to businesses in the territory, asking that the surveys be returned by February 2013.

The official report, U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 Economic Census of Island Areas: Geographic Area Series for the U.S. Virgin Islands, was released July 15, according to the census's website, www.census.gov.

The 2012 economic census was the first one done on an industry-by-industry basis, tabulating the impact of wages and what local businesses are buying and selling across different sectors.

In the territory in 2012, 2,414 businesses employed 32,465 people. By comparison, the 2007 economic census reported 2,583 businesses employed more than 35,300 residents.

While the payroll was about $1.1 billion in 2012, it was slightly more in 2007, according to the report.

The U.S. Virgin Islands had 87 businesses with 50 or more employees in 2012, representing 3.6 percent of all businesses. The businesses accounted for 54.8 percent of total sales.

In 2007, 109 businesses had 50 or more employees, representing 4.2 percent of all businesses, and they accounted for 83.9 percent of total sales.

Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector accounted for 28.7 percent of total sales in 2012, the most of any sector, and sales totaled $2 billion. The manufacturing industry employed 1,984 people and reported $168 million in payroll.

"The numbers represented in the census make clear that it should be the top priority for every stakeholder in the community, including elected officials, community leaders and appointed leaders, to restore the south shore of St. Croix to its economic vitality," said Mark Eckard, chairman of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce Board.

Eckard said that the territory - as reflected by the census - needs to "reindustrialize" St. Croix, where the HOVENSA plant closed earlier in the year, just months before the census was conducted.

The entire territory, as evidenced by the Legislature's ongoing struggles to balance the Virgin Islands budget, has struggled to make up for the revenue and jobs lost as a result of the plant's closure in January 2012.

Retail

Retail trade ranked second among sectors in share of sales, accounting for 19.3 percent of total sales in 2012. The sector had sales of $1.3 billion, employed 6,596 people and had $142 million in payroll.

St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joseph Aubain said that the retail industry, at this point, may be close to surpassing the revenue of the manufacturing industry in the territory.

"If it's not equal to, it's probably close to the number one spot," Aubain said, noting that the numbers are proof of the significance of the retail industry in the Virgin Islands.

"It just confirms what we already know," he said.

Professional sector

The largest increase in employment was in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector with 2,108 paid employees in 2012, up 738 employees from 1,370 in 2007.

Additionally, there were 311 women-owned establishments, up from 271 in 2007 - a 14.8 percent increase - in 2012. The sales and receipts for women-owned businesses increased 19.9 percent to $247.4 million, from $206.3 million in 2007.

In the report, Census Bureau staff noted the high participation rate of local businesses in completing the 2012 Economic Census forms.

Gross domestic product

The results of the 2012 Economic Census will be used to revise the estimate of the territorial gross domestic product - or GDP - for 2012. The gross domestic product is the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within the territory in a year.

The 2012 territorial GDP will be aligned quantitatively to the 2012 Economic Census and is used to derive the GDP for subsequent years until the next economic census year in 2017.

The Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research will collaborate with the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis to revise the 2012 territorial GDP using the results from the 2012 Economic Census.

The revised 2012 territorial GDP will be released when the Bureau of Economic Analysis releases the 2013 territorial GDP in August. While in the territory, Census Bureau staff visited the University of the Virgin Islands' Eastern Caribbean Center to discuss 2012 Economic Census findings along with results from the U.S. Virgin Islands 2010 Population Census and 2012 Community Survey produced by the center.

Participation in the census is required by law, and all information provided was kept confidential.

The survey excluded self-employers and family businesses in which only family members work. It also excluded the agriculture industry - which was covered in other federal surveys - schools, political and religious organizations and government.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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