This week, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released its second monthly iteration of the Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI). With eight of the 13 data points that make up the index having been reported, Rhode Island’s score improved a little, although we’re still 48th in the nation. Nonetheless, we did slip some, compared with our New England neighbors… not that there’s any danger of any New England states overtaking us, since we’re already trailing the pack.
The area of increase merits a closer look. Where Rhode Island improved was the Job Opportunity factor, which puts the state’s labor force, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in the numerator and three alternative measures of unemployment in the denominator: long-term unemployed, people who are marginally attached to the labor force (i.e., they don’t count, because they didn’t look for work in the prior month, but they’d like to work except for some problem), and those who are employed part time, but would rather be full time. The alternative measures are released quarterly, so they’ll have a bigger effect when they change.
Specifically, the Job Opportunity factor saw the numerator edge up slightly (pretty much flat), and the alternative measures decreased in the denominator, leading to a better score. Even so, some interpretation is necessary. All told, 3,700 Rhode Islanders left that denominator, but not many were added to the numerator. Because the labor force is both employed and unemployed, these people on the edge of Rhode Island’s working economy must have simply given up and stopped even thinking about work, to the extent that the numbers can be combined in this way.
What all this parsing indicates, more than anything, is how painfully stagnant Rhode Island is. We need to have clear improvements to the economy, as proven by people working, new jobs, and higher total income.