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Chamber of Commerce plans to review local economy with Economic Census officials

fili@samoanews.com

A weak local economy, lack of new investment and job opportunities, as well as the federally mandated minimum wage hikes are some of the issues the Chamber of Commerce executive board plans to raise with federal officials during a meeting later this month for the upcoming Economic Census.

Commerce Department plans to host at the end of this month two officials with the U.S. Census, who will be on island to carry out the next economic census for the territory. The economic census is carried out every five years and this new one will be the third for American Samoa.

The two Census officials - Lee Wentela, chief economic census branch of the Company Statistics Division and Charles A. Funk, the assistant division chief of the Company Statistics Division — will be on island from Aug. 28 to 30.

 They will be meeting with local government and private sector officials, including the Chamber, whose chairman David Robinson said that his meeting with the Census people is the morning of Aug. 28.

“I will do an overview of our current economics during the meeting with the Census officials,” said Robinson last Friday when asked about the issues he plans to raise with the federal officials. “There is serious weakness in our economy due to the lack of new investment and new job opportunities.”

“The minimum wage issue will also be raised with them and the need to take action to ensure that we manage to delete the escalation clause now,” he explained. “In the future, we’d like to be master of our own destiny in determining and introducing wage increases as appropriate to our local economy.”

Minimum wage hikes, first enacted into law in 2007,  are now delayed until 2015 and this is the third delay so far.

Robinson said one of the issues faced by the territory is rising inflation and a shrinking population — according to the 2010 census, which states that total population is 55,519 — there has been a decline of 3.1%, or 1,772 people between 2000 and 2010.

“So disposable local income is getting less and less due to the population decline,” said Robinson, who remains hopeful for a bright future for the territory heading into the new year, when a new administration takes over the helm of the executive branch.

The U.S. Census Bureau 2007 Economic Census for American Samoa shows the territory’s economy generated almost $1.3 billion in sales in 2007. The economic census is carried out every five years and the first for American Samoa was for 2002.

In 2002 there were 1,061 establishments, employing 11,618 people and had an annual payroll of $120.5 million with total sales close to $1 billion (about $993.9 million).

In 2007 American Samoa had 812 businesses, including 612 with paid employees. These businesses employed 11,247 people and had an annual payroll of $132.3 million.

In 2007, the manufacturing sector had $522.7 million in sales, accounting for 40.9 percent of the overall total.



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