If it weren’t for the history of Rhode Island’s employment statistics (and for the lack of evidence that we’re experiencing an employment boom), there might be reason for optimism. Rhode Island’s 6.1% unemployment rate is no longer in the bottom 10 for the country or at the back of New England’s pack. But a first-half overstatement of employment gains has become typical, in Rhode Island. A look at our annual labor force and employment chart shows just how unlikely the trend looks:
A chart comparing Rhode Island with its neighbors illustrates two points. First, it would be silly to believe that Rhode Island is doing better than Connecticut just because its unemployment rate is now lower. Rhode Island has a long way to go catching up to Rhode Island. Second, we had to change the axis on this chart, this month, because Massachusetts’s labor force has now so far exceed it January 2007 level that the line wouldn’t fit on the chart anymore.
Whether the numbers are reliable or not, they do show Rhode Island moving away from its outlier status for employment distance from peak, although the Ocean State is still toward the back of the pack.
The chart that adds in data for jobs actually based in Rhode Island brings some reality back to the numbers. For one thing, they are more immediately based on verifiable data (tax forms rather than a survey). For another thing, RI-based jobs are actually more in line with the impression that people generally have of Rhode Island’s economy.
While the numbers do move up and down a bit, there has been no growth in jobs, this year, and very little growth since last June, despite the jump in people supposedly saying that they are employed. Hopefully, as the employment numbers return to Earth, the jobs numbers will experience a little boost.