At first look, a study mentioned on MarketWatch appears to provide support for the mantra from Rhode Island’s governing elite that we need “the right kind of well-paying jobs.” From the color-coded map that Quentin Fottrell includes with his article, the takeaway appears to be that Rhode Island is one of the four states with the lowest numbers of jobs for college graduates.
Comparing that map with my regular employment-versus-peak chart shows that there’s more to the story. On the map, RI is in company with North Dakota, but in employment, North Dakota is up there with Texas as two states that have put the recession well in their rear-view mirrors.
If you consider the second chart of the study that Fottrell cites, you’ll note that adjustment for population doesn’t help Rhode Island at all, but it does move North Dakota up to the middle of the pack, albeit below the national average. The key point is that Rhode Island lacks both college-grad jobs and non-college-grad jobs. In short, Rhode Island doesn’t have much by way of opportunity for anybody (except political insiders and opportunists).
As a college grad who spent much of the last decade working as a carpenter, I’d suggest for the average Rhode Islander having a job comes first. Benefiting from a college degree comes second. Judging by the way our governors and legislators set policy, it’s pretty clear that they believe it’s worth slowing down job growth generally in order to make sure that those that are available meet their approval.
Making matters worse is that there’s no guarantee (or evidence, that I’ve seen) that the “well-paying jobs” that elected officials promise will actually go to the Rhode Islanders who are suffering from the state’s moribund economy. As I keep repeating: the only plausible, or even humane, solution is to back the government off so that Rhode Islanders can develop the kind of economy that serves their needs.
This may just be my undying optimism, but I have a feeling that letting Rhode Islanders do that will improve prospects across the job spectrum. After all, a good portion of your neighbors do, in fact, have college degrees that they’d like to put to work. Left free to work and to experiment, they’ll make their own opportunities.