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A breakdown of the US territories’ GDP, in context

by | Aug 11, 2023 | Economy | 1 comment

The territories of the United States have vastly different economies. All five of them—Puerto Rico, Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands—have had their economies slowly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Here we examine both the economies from a whole standpoint and the individual components of the economies. For the individual parts of GDP, we focus on the major sectors in each territory and the four main components of GDP: Private consumption, private investment, net exports (exports minus imports), and government spending. 

Puerto Rico

According to the World Bank, Puerto Rico is the largest economy of the five overseas territories. As of 2022, Puerto Rico’s GDP equals $113.4 billion, or a GDP of $35,208.60 per capita. The territory’s annual growth rate for its GDP is 3.4%, while its unemployment rate has been holding steady at 6.0%. According to bMedia, the majority of Puerto Rico’s economy is either industry or manufacturing, with the next closest being the services sector. Additionally, agriculture makes up 0.7% of Puerto Rico’s GDP. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, data from 2020 for Puerto Rico shows that consumption makes up $56.2 billion, over half of the $105.4 billion GDP in 2020. Consumption of goods makes up $24.7 billion, and consumption of services accounts for $32.9 billion. Additionally, net foreign travel comes in at -$1.4 billion. Next, $14.1 billion of the GDP is based on private investment, most of which is fixed investment. As for exports, Puerto Rico exports $70.5 billion and imports $50.6 billion, for a total net export of $19.896 billion. The final component in the makeup of Puerto Rico’s GDP is government consumption. Government consumption totals $15.1 billion, with $3.3 billion being federal spending. $9.3 billion being central, and $2.4 billion being municipal spending.


The economy of Guam is different than that of Puerto Rico. According to the World Bank, the GDP of the island of Guam is $6.1 billion in 2021. While that is less than the total GDP of Puerto Rico, the GDP per capita on the island is $35,904.90, which is more than the GDP per capita of Puerto Rico. The World Bank also lists Guam’s annual growth at 1.1% and its unemployment rate as of 2022 at 6.1%, slightly higher than Guam’s long-term unemployment rate. When breaking down the four components of GDP, the data provided by the BEA says that consumption makes up $3.8 billion of the GDP. Of that consumption, the majority of the personal consumption was on durable goods, such as cars. According to the report, the bulk of the spending was supported by government assistance provided in legislation such as the CRRSA Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. After consumption are investments, which make up $1.5 billion of the GDP. The report lists increased investment in equipment and structures and investments in retail and residential buildings. After investments are net exports, which make up -$3.4 billion of the GDP, what this means is that Guam’s imports outweigh its exports by over $3 billion. The reason for this large deficit in exports was listed as the lack of travelers to the island, which matches the trend COVID-19 started. The final component of the GDP is government spending, which according to the report, was the largest portion of Guam’s GDP, coming in at $4.2 billion. Of that, $4 billion, $2.4 billion was federal spending, and $1.7 billion was territorial.

US Virgin Islands

According to the data provided by the World Bank, the US Virgin Islands had a GDP in 2020 of $4.2 billion. When broken down by population, the GDP per capita is $39,552.20. The annual growth is listed at -2.1%, meaning their GDP has shrunk compared to previous years. The unemployment rate was listed at 12.4%, the highest unemployment rate for any of the territories. Using the data provided by the BEA, the components of the islands’ GDP, which uses the 2021 GDP of $4.4 billion, is listed at $2.9 billion for consumption. Of that consumption, $1.1 billion is goods, with the majority of the products consumed being nondurable goods such as food and beverages. The rest of the consumption is services, making up $2.8 billion, with the largest service consumed being housing and utilities. As for private investment, it totals $15 million. The total contribution towards the GDP is $10 million for net exports, with $4 billion in exports and $4 billion in imports. The majority of exports are goods, and the vast majority of imports are also goods. Government expenditures total $1.4 billion, of which $225 million is federal expenditures and $1.2 billion is territorial expenditures.

American Samoa

Using the data from the World Bank, it is clear that American Samoa had a GDP of $709 million in 2021. When broken down by population, the GDP per capita is $15,743.30. The database also lists at -1.9% annual growth, and the World Bank could not provide any data on the unemployment rate of American Samoa. According to the BEA, consumption accounts for $598 million of the GDP. Of that, $598 million, $299 million were spent on goods, mostly nondurable ones. The remaining $295 million was spent on services. Additionally, there was $4 million in net foreign travel. The total make-up for the investment part of the GDP is $78 million. For net exports, the total is -$391 million. The breakdown of the net export is $334 million in exports, with $330 million being exports of goods. The total imports make up $724 million, with $642 million being imports of goods. Finally, the total government expenditures are $406 million, with $21 million being federal investment and $385 million being territorial expenditures.

Northern Mariana Islands

For the Northern Mariana Islands, the World Bank uses the data from 2020 to list the GDP of the Islands at $858 million. The GDP per capita is $17,302.90, and the annual growth rate came out to -29.7%. Once again, the World Bank was unable to list an unemployment rate. According to the BEA, the total consumption of the Islands was $644 million, with $328 million being in goods and $424 million being in services. The net foreign travel equals -$108 million. The total private investment makes up $105 million. The total for net exports is -$408 million, with $128 million in exports and $536 million being imports. Finally, government expenditures make up $517 million, with $38 million being federal spending and $381 million in territorial spending.

While all of the islands suffered economic setbacks in 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of them have been steadily recovering. It is important for us to know the economic breakdown of all the territories to understand further how their economies operate.



Vincent Calabria

Vincent Calabria

Vinnie is a Junior at Towson University where he expects to receive a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in economics. He has grown up in a suburb of Baltimore and looks forward to living in DC this summer. In his free time, he enjoys playing football with his friends, going hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. His career aspirations would be to work in public policy fields focusing on economic issues such as affordable housing and responsible banking. At Pasquines, Vincent is a former Economic Affairs Intern Correspondent.

1 Comment

  1. Steph

    Great job!


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