SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico fired nearly 8,000 government workers Friday, the start of a wave of layoffs aimed at closing a budget deficit as the island struggles through its third year of recession.
The first round included mostly temporary clerical workers in the education, treasury and health departments. Gov. Luis Fortuno has said he needs to cut 30,000 public sector jobs on an island where more than one-fifth of the people work for the local government.
The layoffs come as Puerto Rico faces an unemployment rate of nearly 15 percent, higher than anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
"The effects will be fatal," said Francisco Catala, an economics professor at the University of Puerto Rico. "We are going about this the wrong way."