Sense of the RI Economy: Positive but Discouraging or Discouraging but Positive?


In a brief article in today’s Providence Journal, Paul Edward Parker juxtaposes the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) with URI Economics Professor Len Lardaro’s Current Conditions Index (CCI):

“Rhode Islanders should be happy to see the various measures of employment and jobs improving, and to see fewer Rhode Islanders relying on Medicaid,” said the center’s research director, Justin Katz. “Still, Rhode Island needs to move quickly if it wants to capitalize on the national economic improvement, and we’ve seen no sign that our elected officials understand the urgency or what needs to be done.”

The center found that Rhode Island continues to straggle well behind the U.S. average on its index and even farther behind the average for New England. …

Meanwhile, Lardaro reports the lowest CCI score since November 2016, but…

“While all of this appears to be rather bleak and foreboding at first glance,” he said, “I believe such a rush to judgement is not necessarily appropriate at the present time.”

He further explained that the April performance “was fairly strong as disappointments go.” He noted improvement over April 2017 in two employment numbers: the labor-force-participation rate and the employment rate.

So, which is it?  Are Rhode Island’s numbers not good enough to challenge long-term skepticism and concern, or are they not bad enough to temper general optimism?

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As with all of these index debates, the answer largely depends on what indicators one traces.  I’d suggest that I was correct to warn that our upswing may be a consequence of national trends for which our state government has positioned us poorly.  Lardaro may be correct that positive momentum is moderating, but with continued opportunity for growth.

Either way, the prescription is the same:  Rhode Islanders need to stop settling for broader economic tides and free their neighbors to start rowing.

  • guest

    So to recap, the glass is half-empty again, Justin? I’m shocked!

    • Justin Katz

      Wouldn’t put it that way. Rather, the glass is slowly filling, but we’re refusing to push it closer to the source.

      • guest

        The “source” of what?

  • Mike678

    The rising tide floats all boats–even those with leadership that refuses to plug the holes in the bilge. It just rises more slowly…

    The sad reality is that RI leadership will double down on failure in this rising economy, which will make the fall even more devastating should the economy begin to fail. Of course, our dear leaders will claim victim status and it will be everyone else’s fault.