December 2015 Employment: Despite Unemployment Rate, Down Note for the Year

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ecember employment data continued the same story, for Rhode Island.  A loss of 371 employed Rhode Islanders was offset by a loss of 801 Rhode Islanders in the labor force (working or looking) to produce a decrease in the employment rate, although without the lost labor force, the unemployment rate would have gone in the other direction.  In reality, December shed more of the gains that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) had found through August (and that BLS will very likely shave again with the forthcoming revision for the year).

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Although New England continued to see declines all around, Rhode Island increased the gap with its two neighbors, in December.

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Given its relative position in New England, and New England’s relative position to the rest of the country, it isn’t surprising that Rhode Island slid by comparison when it comes to the amount of employment relative to each state’s pre-recession peak.  By this measure, Rhode Island has fallen back to sixth worst.  In particular, Michigan’s approach to the Ocean State is significant, because the two states were paired outliers from the rest of the country for quite a while after the recession.

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Again, the bright spot in the BLS report is that the number of jobs located in Rhode Island increased by 1,100 in December.  However, as the final chart shows, the increase follows a trough in the numbers and at best puts the state back on track for a mild, below-inflation expansion of available jobs.  Given the contrary directions of employment and jobs, it’s worth remembering that the gap between the two (ignoring methodological differences) consists of the self-employed, business owners, those working in other states, farmers, and anybody working off the books.  In the past, I’ve characterized this as the “entrepreneurial sector,” and a small gap may not be encouraging for a state that’s hoping for a boom in innovation.

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