Hurricanes Irma and Maria and September, October and November 2017 Payroll data for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands


Hurricane Irma caused severe damage in St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico also suffered damage from Irma. Irma was a Category 5 hurricane when near the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, September 20, causing catastrophic damage. These areas already had suffered damage from Hurricane Irma earlier in the month.

Did CES estimation procedures change for the September, October and November 2017 data for Puerto Rico?

The CES program reviewed, and continues to review, all aspects of its estimation procedures to determine if any changes are necessary. For the release of September 2017 Puerto Rico estimates, the collection rates in the affected areas were within normal ranges, and the CES program determined that no modifications to the current methodology would be made. Response rates for the November 2017 establishment survey were slightly lower than average in Puerto Rico. Additionally, a modification was made to the estimation process that accounts for business births and deaths for final October and preliminary November estimates.

Research indicates that while both the business birth and death portions of total employment are generally significant, the net contribution is relatively small and stable. To account for this net birth/death portion of total employment, BLS uses an estimation procedure with two components: the first component excludes employment losses due to business deaths from sample-based estimation in order to offset the missing employment gains from business births. This is incorporated into the sample-based estimate procedure by simply not reflecting sample units going out of business, but imputing to them the same trend as the other firms in the sample. This step accounts for most of the birth employment. Given the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria, reported zeroes were used to calculate the final October and preliminary November estimates for Puerto Rico to reflect likely changes in business birth/death patterns in Puerto Rico. The second component is an auto-regressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) time series model designed to estimate the residual birth/death employment not accounted for by the imputation. This second component was not modified for final October or preliminary November estimates for Puerto Rico. See for more information on the CES net birth/death model.

How are establishment estimates for the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by the recent hurricanes?

Because of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the U.S. Virgin Islands was not able to conduct normal data collection activities for its establishment survey. In turn, given the lack of adequate sample data, reliable September, October and November estimates for the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot be produced at this time. BLS published revised August 2017 estimates on October 20, 2017, for the U.S. Virgin Islands. BLS continues to monitor the situation in the U.S. Virgin Islands and will produce estimates when adequate sample data becomes available.


Last Modified Date: December 22, 2017