Kilili: Decline in number of US, FAS workers ‘disappointing’

Delegate notes employers paid over $15M to CNMI gov’t to train US workers
Posted on Feb 15 2022


Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has expressed disappointment with the decline in the number of U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and Freely Associated States citizens working in the Marianas, as shown in a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office study.

The Freely Associated States refer to the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.



In his e-kilili newsletter over the weekend, Sablan said that, according to GAO’s biannual report on workforce trends that was published last week, there were 13,662 “U.S. workers” in 2016 and that same group shrank to 12,106 in 2020.

The GAO report is mandated by the U.S. Workforce Act, U.S. Public Law 115-218, to track if the law’s goal “to encourage the hiring of U.S. workers” is being met.

The delegate said the GAO report results are disappointing, given that Marianas employers have paid over $15 million for the CNMI government to train U.S. workers.

Sablan said another goal of the law was to increase the percentage of U.S. workers in the Marianas economy.

From 2016 through 2020, that percentage did go up, from 47% to 51%, he said, because, even though the number of U.S. workers decreased in that period, the total workforce shrank even faster.

“So. the statistical ratio improved at the same time fewer U.S. workers had jobs,” the delegate said.

Sablan said another statistical oddity is that the CNMI government changed its tax reporting procedures in 2018 for individuals given CNMI-only permanent resident status under his Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act, U.S. Public Law 116-24, thus “shifting workers previously counted as foreign workers to United States workers,” according to GAO. Sablan said this gave the false appearance that the number of U.S. workers was growing.

The GAO study also shows that the number of foreign workers in the CNMI fell by 73% from 2001 to 2020. GAO found that the overall number and share of foreign workers in the CNMI workforce fell significantly over the last 20 years, from about 36,000 workers in 2001, to about 9,700 workers in 2020, representing about a 73% decline.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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