Presenting My Voice of Skepticism in the Projo

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Kate Bramson’s Providence Journal article about the latest employment numbers broadens the presentation beyond what the unemployment rate often enjoys, and not just because she quotes me:

A clearer picture of the state’s jobs data will be available early next year, when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revises states’ jobs data for the year. The numbers released each fall aren’t always the most accurate depiction of the local economy because monthly reports are calculated based on survey data from the prior autumn. The federal revisions take into consideration newer data.

Justin Katz, research director for the nonprofit Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, said the state’s jobs numbers are “not encouraging.”

“Both employment and Rhode Island-based jobs have fluctuated around painfully low growth rates since the recession ended years ago, and the loss of Rhode Islanders even interested in working has provided a perverse silver lining by artificially lowering the unemployment rate,” Katz said in a statement. “If the upcoming revision of annual data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics follows the usual pattern, Rhode Island will have seen barely any increase in employment since the summer of 2015.”

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It’ll be nice, one day, when Rhode Island’s economy negates my skepticism and brings about upward revisions of our employment data.  Perhaps national policy can bring about that outcome, but I suspect it’s going to take Rhode Islanders’ declaration that they’ve had enough of the status quo and forcing of a new economy philosophy in state government.



  • Rhett Hardwick

    Has anyone ever thought to construct an index based on the number of season ticket holders at the Philharmonic? I was just looking for seats for the Rachmaninoff concert and it appears that about half the seats are for season ticket holders. Another example of “privilege” one supposes. Should I bring a date with castanets and a rose in her teeth?

  • guest

    Is your whole “index” and gloom and doom prophecy based on population declining rather than the percentage of unemployed?

    • Justin Katz

      No, it has 12 different indicators involving employment, income, welfare, and taxes. It’s also relative to the other 49 states.

  • Justin Katz

    Everything’s a ratio: labor force over alternate unemployment measures, employment and jobs over welfare programs, and income over taxes. More important than whether a population rises or falls is what the population does. If a population can change substantially without affecting those ratios, then I’m not sure how much the population change matters.

    • Mike678

      Perhaps the concern by the defenders of the status-quo is that other voices are being heard in the Projo than just theirs?

  • Justin Katz

    The outflow of retirees wouldn’t, of itself, harm the indicator. However, if the jobs and income of those retirees disappear, rather than creating opportunity for more jobs and local investment, then it would harm the state on the index, as that would be an indicator of a state declining due to attrition.

  • Justin Katz

    No. In developing the index, we left those programs out of it, partly because the index is at the state-level and those programs are mainly national and partly because their more self-contained than, say Medicaid and SNAP. Everybody’s involved in Social Security and Medicare, whereas the others redistribute tax money.

  • Mike678

    Ah, a strawman and ad-hominem in one paragraph! And you question the thought processes of other voters? Physician, heal thyself….

    • guest

      Mike, I take it you meant to respond to this quote…”Perhaps the concern by the defenders of the status-quo is that other voices are being heard in the Projo than just theirs?” Project much?

      • Mike678

        No, I was pointing out the logical fallacies in your statement, but I appreciate your effort to deflect. But I am sometimes wrong. Perhaps you can assist me by pointing out the ad-hominem and strawman in my question? The question not addressed to you? Without additional assumptions, of course.

        Getting past the posturing, I feel your pain. You don’t agree with the authors claims / conclusion yet you have provided no proof…no cogent argument to the contrary.
        I like that Justin’s comments were in the Projo. He questions the claims that some make and states his conclusions. Debate him. Provide us evidence that he is incorrect. Show us where his methodology is incorrect, and why your data / methodology is better. Then let the reader decide…and if change is needed, make it. Informed debate is healthy—poor reasoning and fallacious arguments aren’t.

        • guest

          You open the dialog with “concern by the defenders of the status-quo is that other voices are being heard in the Projo than just theirs?” and want to know where strawman is in the assertion? Really? Back it up! Who, where, how?

          Where’s the ad-hominem? I asked Justin for some specifics regarding the index. No one was attacking his character. You seem to have a few pat rebuttals that you wheel out regardless of the topic. You fancy yourself as an enlightened individual, however I just don’t see it. Can you follow the dialog? If you can’t please re-read, there IS healthy debate occurring.

          • Mike678

            So, no strawman since you can’t point to it. And no ad-hominem. Just more deflection and posturing–perhaps it’s just better to admit error and move on?

            And yes, I see the back and forth. You ask questions and Justin answers. I have yet to see your cogent argument that casts doubt on his conclusion. He offers a methodology and conclusion. You offer questions and statements with no support–opinion. You may be correct–or wrong.

            Suggest we table this and wait and see “If the upcoming revision of annual data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics follows the usual pattern, Rhode Island will have seen barely any increase in employment since the summer of 2015.” In the meantime we can enjoy the booming economy and uptick in consumer confidence that, in my opinion, will assist RI.

  • Justin Katz

    SNAP is included, as is TANF. I think I’m either not writing clearly or you’re missing what I’m saying. We used Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF because they’re more dependent on state-level policies and economy, which was what we were trying to capture. Regarding redistribution and “self-contained,” what I’m saying is that Social Security and Medicare include pretty much everybody, rich or poor, and cross state borders, so it doesn’t draw the distinction; not everybody of a certain age is in Medicaid, SNAP, or TANF. We also don’t include Social Security and Medicare collections in our measure of taxation.

    • guest

      I’m not sure this statement is accurate “not everybody of a certain age is in Medicaid,”. It’s about as accurate measure of the over 65 population that you are going to find, but thanks for the clarifications.

      • Justin Katz

        You’re conflating Medicare and Medicaid.

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