The Mystery of Lost Jobs in RI


Time will tell whether I’m wrong, but I’m not sure the warning in Patrick Anderson’s Providence Journal article about RI employment last week was sufficiently vehement:

A sudden plunge in the number of Rhode Island-based jobs over the winter has caused fiscal analysts to darken their outlook for the state’s economy in the coming year, but they are not expecting a major downturn.

In March, state and federal officials decided they had overcounted the number of jobs in the state at the end of last year by 7,300 positions. Then, in the first three months of this year, Rhode Island shed another 2,800 jobs, putting it 10,100 jobs shy of the record employment high water mark celebrated last December.

Economists and state labor officials are a little puzzled by the job losses.

Regarding the drop in the first quarter, one quoted economist, Michael Lynch, notes that the sector leading the losses was “administrative support/waste management services,” which includes “office administration, hiring and placing of personnel, document preparation and similar clerical services, solicitation, collection, security and surveillance services, cleaning, and waste disposal services.”  Inasmuch as the losses come in a single sector and there have been no massive layoffs to explain the drop, Lynch ascribes the trend to “noise in the data.”

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We’ll see.  Another possibility is that, despite the national growth, Rhode Island’s economy isn’t supporting a particular sector, for some reason.  In this case, that sector is the one that operates offices and helps companies grow.  If it is unique in having lost jobs, it may be that Rhode Island is uniquely a bad location from which to operate a business and capitalize on broad growth.

Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s dismissive response that “those adjustments are pretty typical of what happens at the end of every year” is alarming in its own right.  The revisions to employment data each year reflect the fact that the state’s economy is doing something that economists didn’t expect.  If the economy had truly been as strong as Raimondo claimed while campaigning for reelection, the revision would have been up.  Instead, economists are surprised and mystified by how poorly our state is doing under her leadership.

They shouldn’t be.

  • ShannonEntropy

    First Gina rehires Deloitte to run UHIP — now known as
    “RI Bridges” cuz you’ll wanna jump off one if you ever have to deal with them

    … now these new job figures

    … and this morning’s ProJo reports that she over-estimated sports betting revenue by a factor of 300%

    And we’re only four months into her second term. wtf man !!

    Fasten yer seatbelts folks it’s gonna be a bumpy ride for the next 3½ years

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “noise in the data.”
    Great phraseology there. It really explains nothing but leaves you feeling ill informed if you don’t “get it”.

    • ShannonEntropy

      That phrase is just a home-spun version of a ‘jargon’ term statisticians & economists that is more properly called “Statistical Noise”

      Since I donut have access to raw data Lynch does, I have no way of knowing whether this assertion is accurate or he is simply obfuscating to keep his job with Gina

      …. but I can assure you the term does address a significant problem area in the statistical analysis of gathered data that especially raises its ugly head in studies that use “regression analysis”* and is NOT designed to make double-talk you to you feel inferior & “ill informed”

      * These are studies of subjects — like the one here — where you can’t have a classically controlled study. Fer ex: there is no way to design a valid study comparing say two country’s economies, cuz there is no feasible way to have a ‘control’ group / country / whatever

      Hope this helps you sleep better tonight, Rhett !!

  • Christopher C. Reed

    “Perhaps nonworking men are doing something else productive? In Men without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis (Templeton, 2016), Nicholas Eberstadt notes that not having a job frees up about 2,000 hours per year. “What is striking, however, is how little of this enormous free-time dividend was devoted to helping others in their family or community,” Eberstadt writes. To illustrate, men not in the labor force spend no more time on child care or housework than employed women. They spend forty-four minutes more per day than employed women on “personal care” (which includes sleep), and they spend four and a half hours more on “socializing, relaxing, and leisure.” Much of the leisure is watching television and movies, which accounts for five and a half hours of their average day.”
    –Amy Wax & Jason Richwine in American Affairs Journal.

    So I’m loading the truck full of spring cleanup, and I notice a middle-aged guy, a little scruffy for our street, out walking his dog in the middle of the day. But it doesn’t quite register. Then, further along, another working age guy, with a little dog on a leash. Ping. We had a saying (about tenant behavior), once is an anomaly, twice is a trend, three times is a policy.

    Could just be remote/shift workers on lunchbreak, but hmm…

    • Rhett Hardwick

      “What is striking, however, is how little of this enormous free-time dividend was devoted to helping others in their family or community,”

      Previously “working men” are not “socialized”, they don’t know what to do with their time if not working. I suspect a number would “volunteer” on community projects if they knew about them. Particularly if they thought it was meaningful and brought them in contact with others similarly situated. “You fight a war for your buddies”. If you are used to selling your time, “giving it away” has to offer you something.

      Quite a few guys I know wouldn’t be interested in “wetlands cleanup”, but would build a garage for beer, sandwiches and “accomplishment”.

      • ShannonEntropy

        You donut know many millennials or GenZers, do you, Rhett ??

        My millennial son & son-in-law wouldn’t know which end of a screwdriver to hold

        My SIL in particular — gainfully employed with a telecommunications firm — spends entire weekends in his basement “Man Cave” playing video games or watching sportsball on the boob tube, ignoring his wife & daughter

        It is not a far stretch to believe that “NEET” people are even less productive

        • Rhett Hardwick

          “You donut know many millennials or GenZers, do you, Rhett ??”

          No, I wouldn’t say that, but I suspect that a career in academia has sheltered you from America. I will give you this. When my daughter, she of the Ivy League, was observed by male friends “fixing” things around her apartment; they warned her that if she ever hoped to get married, she had better find a very “confident” man.
          My career has brought me into contact with a lot of successful “blue collars”. Their kids do, in fact, know one end of a screwdriver from another. But, they are more likely to show up in a King Ranch Ford, than a BMW. They are uncomfortable with “professionals”, so, they do not seek out “expensive subdivisions”, or “gated communities” until retirement. Since their “totems of success” go unnoticed by many, their existence is ignored. I was amused by a guy I know selling his Corvette, in favor of a Mercedes, realizing he “wasn’t a carpenter anymore”. My 35 year old neighbor just bought a Kubota, strictly to dig holes around his property when he is “in a mood”.

          • ShannonEntropy

            I actually come from a very blue-collar family, Rhett. My dad was an auto-worker for Chysler & my mom was of the 50s-60s stay-at-home-
            -and-raise-five kids variety

            It’s my kids that are sheltered… at age 15 my son actually refused to let me teach him how to change a flat tire, saying: “Why should I learn that ?? Nobody gets flat tires anymore”
            The breath-taking stoopidity of that statement still astounds me

            All us academics aren’t just egg-heads, ya know. A Chemistry prof friend of mine used to moonlight setting up meth labs for the HAMC
            [ Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club ]. Another colleague — same dept different division — climbed Mt Everest. Several guys in my dept run in the Boston Marathon every year.

            [ Me, I wouldn’t run out of a burning building… I’d just walk real fast ]

            Even tho it is a D-1 Ivy, Brown is def 2nd rate academically. We’re no MIT or CalTech. But most of the folks I worked with did come from very privileged upbringings

            Just in my dept, one guy’s uncle was once Surgeon General of the US; another guy’s brother won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

            The only other academic in my family is a Physics prof at a small mid-west college. I donut expect to be seeing him standing on the podium in Stockholm Concert Hall any time soon

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Not to diminish climbing Everest, or running the Marathon; how many have served time in the military (to gain Veteran’s Preference), actually been in a fight, been mugged, or stabbed, by blacks (more common than you might think), paid off public officials in order “to work”, held a small business together when “things were so bad you couldn’t buy a job”, taken a government contract in a “minority area”, then been stopped by police and told to “come back when you have a bigger crew”?
            When viewing a Chippendale highboy, they may not approve of the design, but are impressed by “the work”.

          • ShannonEntropy

            You are conflating me with the hoity-toity folks I worked with

            My father was one of 5 brothers
            … four of them served in the military

            I came of age during the Vietnam War years. Nobody wanted to serve then, patriotic or not. The Draft Lottery was very very good to me so I never served

            You seem to put “cred” in whether or not you have been “mugged, or stabbed”

            I have had a double-barreled shotgun pointed at me; and once I was shot at with a handgun

            Is that enough “street cred” for ya ??

      • Christopher C. Reed

        What’s more pitiable than a retired First Sargeant/Master Chief w/o a platoon to run?