Guam’s unemployment rate down to 4.4%; positive signs of tourism growth

Guam’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% as of September, according to an official from the Guam Department of Labor. 

That’s a decrease of 0.4 percentage points from the June 2022 figure of 4.8% and a reduction of 3.7% points from the September 2021 figure one year earlier of 8.1%, Gary Hiles, chief economist at GDOL, said during his presentation to the Guam Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Guam Economic Outlook forum.

“The outlook for these expansionary trends continuing is very positive based on a variety of leading indicators including defense appropriations, construction contracts, increased airline capacity and tourist arrival forecasts,” Hiles said.

The forum was held Jan. 12 at the Westin Resort Guam. It was organized by the chamber’s Small Business Focus and Development Committee, which featured a panel of professionals in their respective industries.

The September 2022 Current Employment report noted that the average number of private sector weekly hours paid increased from 35.1 in September 2021 to 36.8 in September 2022, while weekly earnings increased by $50.81, from $571.17 to $621.98 year-over-year, according to the Office of the Governor of Guam. 

“Substantial increases in tourist arrivals from Korea and Japan subsequent to their respective governments’ easing travel restrictions have contributed to recent and significant expansion in Guam’s economy,” Hiles said in a press release on the unemployment rate. “In addition to the recent economic boost from tourism, continuing increases in construction activity, both civilian- and defense-related, provide further stimulus to economic expansion.” 

The panel included Artemio “Ricky” Hernandez, deputy executive manager, Guam International Airport Authority, Siska S. Hutapea, president, Cornerstone Valuation Guam Inc., and Gerald S.A. Perez, vice president, Guam Visitors Bureau. 

Meanwhile, Ma. Claret M. Ruane, writing in what she called her private capacity also presented her forecast on the island’s economy for 2023. Ruane said she is “cautiously optimistic” about Guam’s economy this year. Ruane is a professor at the University of Guam.

However, Ruane said she “needs convincing” that Guam’s economy is improving. She said the years prior to 2019 Guam had a “stable” economy adding that 2019 was a strong year for the island, but that was “interrupted” by the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

In more recent years, she said, growth has been much slower, seeing an improvement of about 1%.

The September 2022 Unemployment Situation report and Current Employment Report are available online at


Compact negotiations in Micronesia progressing; MOUs signed

Special Presidential Envoy Joseph Yun, left, and President Surangel S. Whipps Jr. shake hands during a meeting on Jan. 10 in Las Angeles, Calif., where a preliminary memorandum covering some economic aspects on the Compact of Free Association between the two nations was signed.
Photo courtesy of the Office of the President of Palau

On Jan. 11 Palau time, representatives of the U.S. and Palau signed a preliminary memorandum to continue the free association between the two nations.

The understanding covered in the MOU includes assistance in the next 20 years that is more than twice the 2020 package and assistance past 20 years, according to a press release from the Office of the President of Palau.

Involved is economic assistance for Palau’s government operations, infrastructure, and needs that would otherwise not be met, as well as U.S. domestic programs.

The association must be reviewed periodically until 2034. The understanding signed Jan. 11 was reached by Palau Chief Compact of Free Association Negotiator and Finance Minister Kaleb Udui Jr. on behalf of Palau and by Special Presidential Envoy Joseph Yun on behalf of the U.S.

President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. and U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Carmen Cantor witnessed the signing. The U.S. Department of State also released the news of the signing.

The new economic assistance would begin as early as Oct. 1, which is the start of fiscal 2024, “if a full agreement is reached and approved by the U.S. Congress,” the Palau press release said. The full agreement will provide details and cover other matters in the relationship between the two nations.

“The understanding also recognizes the reduction in Palau’s revenue from its largest industry, tourism, due to geopolitical pressures and COVID-19 as well as increasing sea-level rise and related challenges. It was preliminarily agreed to recognizing the Government of Palau’s efforts to cope with these challenges,” the release said.

In commenting on the key step in completing the review, Whipps thanked U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and members of the U.S. Congress from both U.S. political parties for Yun’s appointment. Whipps had asked for a presidential envoy to represent the U.S. in the Compact’s 30th Anniversary Review after rejecting an assistance package determined with lower-level U.S. officials in 2020 as “unacceptable.”

“With Envoy Yun at the table leading the U.S. team, we have been able to work out an agreement that is mutually beneficial for both our nations,” Whipps said.

“From the start of the negotiations in our Administration, Palau’s team has been guided by principles of partnership and resiliency. The relationship between Palau and the U.S. should be a partnership — Palau offers strategic importance in terms of stability in the region and provides defense rights to the U.S. The Compact and its economic assistance provisions should be a mechanism for Palau to increase its resiliency from threats like the pandemic, climate change, and market disruptions.

An MOU between the Marshall Islands was also signed, according to a Jan. 12 release from the U.S. Department of State. This was not the first MOU between the two countries in the latest round of negotiations. 

According to the release, “Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations Joseph Yun signed the Memorandum for the United States and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kitlang Kabua signed for the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

“Ambassador Gerald Zackios of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Assistant Secretary of Insular and International Affairs Carmen G. Cantor, U.S. Department of the Interior attended the signing in Los Angeles,” the release said.

The Compacts as overall security agreements do not expire, but U.S. funding packages included in the Compacts do, though the stated intent is that these will continue.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China has been working on successful diplomatic initiatives in Micronesia and other regions.

According to Journal files, Marshall Islands leaders have said the talks cannot be limited to financial provisions and must address the lingering U.S. nuclear weapons test legacy, issues related to the U.S. government’s missile testing range at Kwajalein, and climate problems.


Free farmer training can help small farming businesses, increasing food sustainability

Farm to Table Guam Corp., has opened registration for its free six-month farmer training program, offering an opportunity to those interested in starting a small business in the field.

Participants of the half-year program will learn the skills and knowledge to grow their own food and operate a small farm business, according to the press release issued by the nonprofit.

Farm to Table said that this effort aims to increase Guam’s food security, with participants learning to grow food for the community. Topics covered in the training include organic methods, soil health, seed selection and germination., plant health and maintenance, harvesting, hydroponics, record keeping, budgeting and taxes, as well as funding opportunities, the press release said.

Additionally, trainees will be brought on site visits, group training, experience hands-on demos, ongoing mentorship, start-up assistance and receive free supplies.

“In addition to the training, we will … help you get your grow space ready and will provide you with supplies that will get you started,” Farm to Table said. “We’ll assist you throughout the whole process, offer continued guidance and mentorship, helping you create a successful micro farm/market garden in your backyard.”

The project is supported by a grant. To apply before the Feb. 10, go to


Political updates:

Gov. Arnold I. Palacios and Lt. Governor David M. Apatang announced Jan. 12 “they will be providing the public with the CNMI Government’s general state of financial affairs when they have completed a thorough and comprehensive assessment of all financial records, audits, and other relevant documents.”

The Office of the Governor also announced the appointment of Paul Tenorio as executive director for Criminal Justice Planning Agency.


James C. Moylan, Guam’s delegate to Congress; joined Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzales-Colon of  Puerto Rico in introducing House Resolution 256, which would allow U.S. Residents residing in Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to qualify for Supplemental Security Income. H.R. 256 is additionally co-sponsored by Delegate Stacy Plaskett (UVI), Delegate Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan (NMI), Congressman Darren Soto (Florida), and Ritchie Torres (New York). The measure will be referred to a committee for further deliberations.

Douglas B. Moylan, attorney general for Guam; has appointed Joseph A. Guthrie chief deputy and created new office divisions.

Sen. Therese M. Terlaje, speaker of the 37th Guam Legislature; and senators hosted a delegation of members of the 16th Chuuk State Legislature led by its Speaker, Lester D. Mersai. Chief of Staff Douglas Marar of Chuuk noted that through these meetings the two groups hope to address issues “that both Guam and Chuuk residents residing in Guam are facing such as crime and migration impact.”  Additionally, the delegation will meet with the Chuukese community to further these discussions.

Sen. Christopher M. Duenas of the 37th Guam Legislature, announced plans to introduce legislation to “aid in suppressing the distribution, importation and selling of drugs” in Guam, through a Multi Agency Unified Law Enforcement Group.

Both he and Sen. D. Chris Barnett, who is chairman of the Committee on rules, met with the chief of the Guam Police Department on a variety of issues. Recent measures to address recruitment and retention at GPD through pay increases have fallen short, according to a joint release that quoted Stephen Ignacio, Guam’s chief of police.

Republican senators of the minority party in the Guam Legislature will serve as vice chairpersons on legislative committees.


And also …

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Springfield returned Jan. 9 to its homeport of Naval Base Guam after a nearly four-month deployment, according to a Jan 12 advisory from Submarine Squadron 15. mbj