Census data: NMI business income and employment fall amid disaster

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Acting Commerce Secretary Remedio C. Mafnas, second right, poses with U.S. Census Bureau Economic Census Survey Assistant Director Michael Sprung, Survey Assistant Chief of Staff Bobby Nusz and Central Statistics Director, Justin Andrew, Thursday.

2022 Economic Census data showed a downward trend in business income and employment from 2017 to 2022. Super Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan and Tinian in October 2018 while Covid-19 pandemic restrictions shut down the local tourism-based economy from 2020 to 2022.

On Thursday, US Census Bureau Economic Census Survey Assistant Director Michael Sprung and Survey Assistant Chief of Staff Bobby Nusz presented the 2022 CNMI Economic Census data to the media.

Sprung said the same information was given to Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, legislator and Saipan Chamber of Commerce.

In his presentation, Sprung pointed to significant declines in four basic data elements: business establishments, sales, payroll and employment.

The number of establishments fell to 1,523 in 2022 from 1,742 in 2017 or a 12.6% drop, while total business sales in the CNMI fell to $1.7 billion in 2022, a 47% drop from the $3.6 billion total five years earlier.

The number of employees was cut by more than a third from a workforce of 22,652 in 2017 to 14,488 in 2022, a 36% drop. Annual payroll fell to $338.3 million in 2022 from $419.5 million in 2017, a 19.3% decrease.

A line graph showed that the downward trend in business sales from 2017 to 2022 was as great as the upward trend from 2012 to 2017.

Business sales almost tripled to $3.6 billion in 2017 from $1.3 billion in 2012, with the number of business establishments growing 30% to 1,742 in 2017 from 1,339 in 2012.

Based on data from the Marianas Visitors Authority, tourist arrivals increased by more than 64% to 659,741 in 2017 from 401,022 in 2012.

During the Covid years, arrivals reached 88,172 in 2020, 12,684 in 2021 and 96,432 in 2022.

Census data released Thursday also showed the increase and decrease in the number of employees from 2007 to 2022. In 2007, the CNMI had 22,622 employees working for 1,191 business establishments. A tight labor market of 14,215 employees worked for 1,339 establishments in 2012. Employment increased to 22,662 employees working for 1,742 establishments in 2017, before falling back slightly above the 2012 level of 14,461 employees at 2,223 establishments.

Asked for comment, Acting Trade Secretary Remedio C. Mafnas said the CNMI needs to attract new investors especially those involved in tourism and we are working on that.

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