By Sari­na Tran­gle @SarinaTrangle

Updat­ed Feb­ru­ary 22, 2018 6:04 PM

Fed­er­al Reserve Bank of New York offi­cials esti­mat­ed Puer­to Rico and the U.S. Vir­gin Islands have suf­fered 4 per­cent and 8 per­cent jobs loss­es respec­tive­ly since hur­ri­canes struck the islands last year and exac­er­bat­ed already strug­gling economies.

They sug­gest­ed dur­ing a brief­ing Thurs­day that the island economies have improved, but their recov­er­ies could be com­pli­cat­ed by sev­er­al fac­tors, includ­ing: how many res­i­dents move off the islands, how much exter­nal aid they receive and how suc­cess­ful reforms tar­get­ing pre-exist­ing fis­cal pres­sures prove to be.

“The hur­ri­canes were over­laid onto already weak economies, and so this has raised con­cerns about long-term prospects,” said Jason Bram, a research offi­cer. “Despite the dev­as­ta­tion and the dire sit­u­a­tion before the storms, Puer­to Rico’s econ­o­my has shown signs of resilience. Peo­ple have found ways to get around the pow­er out­ages and so forth. The U.S. Vir­gin Islands appears to be tak­ing longer to recov­er, but at least they’ve sta­bi­lized.”

Hur­ri­cane Maria was the most dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­cane to hit Puer­to Rico in near­ly a cen­tu­ry, accord­ing to Bram. More than 1,000 deaths were attrib­uted to the storm. Sev­er­al build­ings and roads were dam­aged as well as 80 per­cent of the island’s crops, accord­ing to the eco­nom­ic brief­ing.

Maria cre­at­ed “by far,” the worst pow­er out­age in U.S. his­to­ry, Bram said. He esti­mat­ed 75 per­cent of the island has since regained pow­er.

About 160,000 more pas­sen­gers left Puer­to Rico between August and Novem­ber 2017 than seen in recent data, accord­ing to Bram. He sug­gest­ed that about 20,000 to 30,000 of these peo­ple were tourists. But Puer­to Rico has been los­ing res­i­dents to the main­land as its econ­o­my dipped dur­ing recent years.

In 2016, the island’s pub­lic debt amount­ed to about 100 per­cent of its gross nation­al prod­uct, and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment moved to ush­er it through a bank­rupt­cy-like process and place it under a fis­cal over­sight board.