The retail trade sector has more establishments than any other sector in all five U.S. territories, mirroring the economy of the United States.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released results from the 2017 Economic Census for U.S. territories: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which are covered by the 2017 Economic Census of Island Areas.
U.S. economic indicators numbers do not include U.S. territories and these new statistics are the most detailed Census Bureau business data available on those territories.
The data are published for the territories as well as for areas equivalent to county and place areas in the United States. Data for Puerto Rico also include metropolitan areas and Planning Regions.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released results from the 2017 Economic Census for U.S. territories: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 2017 data show the five territories’ economies were like the U.S. economy in some respects and different in others.
In this article, we refer to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands as the Virgin Islands.
The “Retail Trade” sector, for example, reported the highest share of the sales, shipments or revenue in Guam ($2.1 billion or 24.4% of the territory total) and in the Virgin Islands ($1.2 billion, 20.7%). It was also among the top sectors in the Northern Marianas ($460.4 million, 12.7%).
The retail trade sector was also the top employer in Puerto Rico, with a work force of 132,033 or 20.3% of the territory’s total employment.
Data are not only shown at the broad 2-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) sector levels (included in this article) but also for selected 3-5-digit NAICS levels.
The Accommodation and Food Services sector was the top employer in the Northern Marianas (4,710 workers, 20.8% of the total), Guam (15,121, 25.0%), and Virgin Islands (6,737, 22.1%) in 2017.
This was similar to the economic pattern in two tourism-dominated states: Hawaii, (113,290 workers, 20.5%) and Nevada (320,905, 26.3%).
This sector saw a large growth in sales, shipments, or revenue between 2012 and 2017 in the Northern Marianas and Guam, up $161.5 million and $292.9 million, respectively. It also had the largest growth in number of establishments in Guam, up 107 to 557 during the same period.
The Manufacturing sector was the top sector in sales, shipments or revenue in 11 of the 50 states in 2017 and also in American Samoa ($389.5 million, 36.1% of the territory total) and Puerto Rico ($85.3 billion, 45.2%).
Manufacturing was also the largest employer in American Samoa (2,506 workers).
“Wholesale Trade” was the top sector in revenue in the United States and in 32 states. It saw the largest increase in sales from 2012 to 2017 in 22 states.
This sector, however, is much smaller in the territories, ranking third in sales in Puerto Rico, behind manufacturing and retail trade.
It did rank first in the change in average annual payroll per employee in the Virgin Islands, rising from $36,127 in 2012 to $54,153 in 2017.
In the United States, the Health Care and Social Assistance sector employed the most people in 41 states in 2017, with over 2 million workers in this sector in California alone. In the territories, this sector accounted for a smaller share of all employment, ranking second in employment in Puerto Rico.
However, the sector was first in terms of growth in the number of establishments in Puerto Rico, up from 7,014 in 2012 to 7,738 in 2017.
In American Samoa, the health care sector ranked first in the percentage growth in sales, shipments or revenue, from $10.7 million in 2012 to $40.7 million in 2017.
Businesses in this sector also reported the highest average annual payroll ($36,234) per employee in the Northern Marianas in 2017.
In the United States, businesses tend to be physically located in higher population counties and the same is true in the territories.
For example, over 96% of the businesses and employment (and over 98% of the sales) in the Northern Marianas was in Saipan Municipality in 2017.
The share of business activity in the Virgin Islands was a bit more distributed across the three islands, with St. Thomas accounting for 53% of the establishments, 60% of the sales and 55% of the employment.
Businesses were more evenly distributed across the 78 Municipios or municipalities in Puerto Rico but the 10 largest Municipios (ranked by number of establishments) still accounted for nearly 61% of all establishments in the territory. San Juan Municipio had 24% of Puerto Rico’s businesses, 18% of the sales, and 27% of the employment.
A few Municipios had a larger slice of the sales but not of the number of establishments or employment. Humacao Municipio, for example, accounted for 6.2% of the sales but only 1.7% of the establishments.
Nearly half of the businesses in Guam were in Tamuning Municipality. These businesses accounted for 57.2% of the territory’s sales and 57.6% of the employment in 2017.
The 2017 Economic Census of Island Areas is used by economic development officials and business owners in the territories to help identify business opportunities for growth and underserved markets. The data also are critical to emergency management officials to help identify areas that might be particularly vulnerable to natural and other disasters.
None of these data would be available were it not for the tens of thousands of businesses that responded to the Economic Census of Island Areas.
(Please note that state and sector rankings provided in this story may vary slightly due to nonsampling error and disclosure avoidance methods used to protect the confidentiality of the data. Also, dollar figures in this story are not adjusted for inflation or price change, which could affect comparisons over time.)
Andrew Hait is an economist at the U.S. Census Bureau.