JOI? About that Unemployment Rate, Governor

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Governor Gina Raimondo’s approval rating isn’t good and, in fact, is going in the wrong direction due to

a sharp rise in her negative ratings this year, according to a newly released poll.

Asked about this in a couple of different instances by the press, the Governor responded by citing purported achievements of her administration but always including a reference to the state’s dropping unemployment rate – this one courtesy WPRI.

Asked Thursday how she reacted to seeing her approval rating at 41%, Raimondo replied: “I was pleased.”

“You know, it’s early in my term,” she continued. “We’ve been on for a year. We’ve had a lot of momentum. Our unemployment rate dropped.”

Actually, the unemployment rate is an inadequate reflection of the measure of employment as, among other things, it fails to distinguish between part and full time employment and actually counts a declining labor force participation rate as a good thing.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity has developed a more comprehensive snapshot, called JOI (Jobs & Opportunity Index), of the larger state economic picture, as opposed to the narrow snapshot of the monthly unemployment rate. From the JOI webpage:

JOI is a national index of states that incorporates three major factors, comprised of over a dozen variables derived from government reported data:

1) A proper measure of employment as it relates to labor force,
2) A measure of job/employment levels as compared with public assistance rolls, and;
3) A measure of personal income as compared with government tax receipts collected”

By this measure, Rhode Island ranks forty eighth nationally – not at all a ranking that any state official should or could brag about.

Be sure to keep an eye out for Rhode Island’s JOI ranking as the Center will be updating this important new measure every month when the state’s unemployment rate is released.



  • Russ

    “…and actually counts a declining labor force participation rate as a good thing.”

    How does the index account for people leaving the labor force for reasons other than lack of work? I looked but couldn’t find any mention of the changing demographics of the U.S. workforce.

    This is a nonsense number without some attempt to adjust for an aging population, with more and more Boomers entering retirement. As near as I can tell, people joifully forced to work well into their retirement years is considered a plus.

    • Mike678

      Please do the research and let us know.

      • Russ

        I did. It’s pretty clear there’s no attempt to normalize the labor force statistic, so the index is weighted to be negative when more people leave the workforce for reasons other than lack of work (such as when Boomers retire).

        “Calculated as labor force size divided by the sum of three unemployment variables derived from other BLS ‘U’ datasets… A growing labor force or a lower number of unemployed, marginally attached, or under-employed people will each properly raise the value of this factor.”

        I don’t actually disagree that official unemployment numbers are misleading. I just think the new index isn’t much better.

        • Mike678

          Thanks. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. If we both believe we are being spun, that doesn’t say much for our governments credibility. And if they will spin one number….

    • Lance Wilson
  • Lance Wilson

    April 2015: Labor Force: 556,036; Emp: 521,252; Rate: 6.3%

    Mar 2016: Labor Force: 552,816; Emp: 522,909 Rate 5.4%

    Drop in “Unemployed: app 4,800; % due to drop in labor force: app 70%

    As you would hope, Unemp Ins payments are down, but TDI payments are the same and payments are up (2014 total compared to 2015 total).

    6 figure employment of previously out of state state officials is up though for 2015!

    One can only think this Governor has bet the farm on HRC victory and her ability to move out of here before 2018 before the gantries go up, the pension crisis coming in FY 17-18 to cities/towns with the low returns, etc. come home to roost.

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