Popular, Inc. (NASDAQ:BPOP) Q2 2019 Earnings Conference Call Transcript
Jul 24, 2019 • 11:00 am ET
approximately 18,000. In June, total employment, which includes self-employed individuals was flat both year-to-date and year-over-year. The unemployment rate remains stable in June at 8.4% and is the lowest unemployment rate in Puerto Rico going back at least 55 years. [Indecipherable] employment grew, increasing by 0.8% year-over-year. Once again this quarter the improvement was driven by an increase of 3% in private sector jobs, offset by 5% decline in public employment. The auto industry continued to perform well, 52,000 new units have been sold year-to-date through June, up 4% compared to 2018.
Cement sales were down 8% when compared to the first 6 months of 2018 though there was a considerable surge in activity in early 2018, following the hurricane. However, sales have improved sequentially and were 14% higher than the comparable periods in both 2016 and 2017. Internal metrics we track to monitor economic and client activity are also showing encouraging trends. Our customers debit and credit card purchases in the second quarter increased by 2% compared to the same period in 2018 and grew 10% sequentially. Consumer loan trends in Puerto Rico have also been favorable, especially in the auto sector. Mortgage generation [Phonetic] trends improved significantly compared to last quarter, driven by higher home purchase activity. On the commercial loan side balances were flat and we expect that incremental lending activities will be tied to the performance of the local economy. Popular's customers in Puerto Rico have increased by 24,000 since December 2018 and by 71,000 over the past 12 months, including the 30,000 customers that were acquired with the reliable transaction. AS we have commented before, the sustainability and pace of further progress in the Puerto Rico economy will be heavily dependent on the magnitude in timing of federal funds flowing to the Island. The disbursements has been -- of these funds have been slower than many had hoped and the local political environment, as you know is complicated and uncertain. Given recent events on the island, there would likely be even greater federal oversight and this will probably cause further delays. However, we do not believe that the total amount of recovery funds that ultimately come to Puerto Rico will be reduced.
I will now turn the call over to Carlos, who will discuss the financial results in greater detail.
Carlos J. Vazquez
Thank, you Ignacio. Good morning. Please turn to Slide 5 for second quarter results. Note that the additional-- the additional information is provided in the appendix to our slide deck. Today's earnings press release detailed variances in the first quarter, primarily higher net interest income, higher net interest income, lower taxes offsetting part by higher operating expenses.
Net interest income for the quarter was $476 million, an increase of $5.4 million mostly as a result of having one more day in the second quarter, which added $3.7 million. In Q2, our net interest income benefited from higher commercial loan volumes in the US and consumer loan volumes in Puerto Rico. It also benefited from a