Retail sales in Puerto Rico rose 3 percent to $35.3 billion in 2011, according to the Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC).
DDEC Secretary José Pérez-Riera touted the increase as a sign that consumer confidence is on the rebound as Puerto Rico pulls out of its long economic doldrums.
“The upward trend is clear,” said Pérez-Riera. “We continue to see that consumers are showing more confidence in the economy.”/p>
The full-year increase in retail sales was nearly $1 billion more than in 2010. Last year ended on an upswing, with retail sales rising by 4 percent to $3.5 million in December.
Among the sectors to see the strongest sales gains in 2011 were automobiles, women’s apparel, furniture stores and gas stations. Retailers in the San Juan, Fajardo and Caguas regions posted the biggest increases.
The Government Development Bank-Economic Activity Index for December 2011 showed its first year-over-year growth since March 2006 at the start of Puerto Rico’s years-long recession.
Citing the GDB-EAI’s 98% degree of correlation with real gross national product levels, officials expressed hope that after a stabilization period of more than a year, the Puerto Rico economy is finally breaking into positive terrain.
The positive year-over-year growth follows three straight months in which the GDB-EAI showed month-to-month improvements, and in November it fell a mere 0.1% when compared to the year-prior period. However, the December performance of 127.7 was actually a slight decrease from the 128.2 registered in November.
There are other indicators that the economy is on the rebound, notably the unemployment rate dropping to 13.2% in December, the lowest rate since January 2009. Car and home sales and manufacturing production have also been on the rise, while bankruptcies are finally retreating.
Nevertheless, the most recent figures could well spell the best economic news since the recession began nearly six years ago in March 2006. If the year-over-year growth keeps up for the next few months, it would mark the end of the recession. A widely used definition is that a recession begins after two quarters of economic decline, and ends after two quarters of growth.