Earlier today, Ted Nesi tweeted that today’s jobs report for Rhode Island has “muted” his “bullishness.” That unemployment notched up a tenth of a percent shouldn’t be the concern, though. Rather, the fact that we now have a full calendar quarter of plummeting labor force and employment totals should be.
From the start of the year (that is, using employment data at the end of December 2011) to the end of March, the labor force dropped by 3,830 (0.7%) and the employment number dropped by 3,877 (0.8%). Those numbers haven’t been that high since Rhode Island emerged from the first impact of the downturn, in spring 2009. For a visual, here’s an updated chart.
At this point, if Rhode Island still had the labor force that existed at the beginning of the chart (which was the month of lowest unemployment since the dot-com bust), the unemployment rate would be 14.0%. Combine that with indications that the housing market continues to struggle to find bottom, in Rhode Island, and Rhode Islanders should be very concerned about the direction that their state is heading… and carefully watching the behavior of legislators and other elected officials during this election year.