February 2015 Employment: Seeming Up While Still Down


“For the first time since November 2006,” wrote Kate Bramson in Saturday’s Providence Journal, “Rhode Island doesn’t have the worst unemployment rate in New England.”  Looking closely at the data, however, Rhode Islanders might wish the state did.

The reason has to do with the decline in the state’s labor force, which is the combination of people who say that they are employed and people who say that they are looking for work.  As the following chart shows, employment has been edging up, while labor force has been drifting down.

Even with the same employment, if labor force had remained steady, the unemployment rate would be much higher.  If the labor force had grown — if the Rhode Island economy were encouraging people to get out there and look for jobs — then the unemployment rate might even go up.  And that would be a good thing.



For the Connecticut contrast, look to the dotted line in the next chart.  In recent months, more people have decided to look for work in the Nutmeg State than were able to find jobs.  So, even though that state’s employment record is much, much better than Rhode Island’s the gap between employment and the labor force is slightly higher.


The next chart gives the best perspective on employment.  Rhode Island is still among a small group of outliers way down at the bottom of the chart, and while not every New England state has made it across the 100% line (meaning that it has recovered at least all of the employment that it lost in the recession), they’re all closer than the Ocean State.  Notably, Connecticut is among the states over the 100% line.

Regarding this chart, by the way, a correction to the post on January data is in order.  The revision of this dataset that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released in January hit Mississippi hard, erasing nearly 25,000 employed people, or just about 2%.  Because these posts attempt to keep the axes the same from month to month in order to make the charts more easily comparable, Mississippi had temporarily slipped off the bottom, and I didn’t notice it until this month, when the state made it back into sight.


A peculiar thing about recent data has been visible in the second chart above, comparing Rhode Island with its immediate neighbors.  One of the factors that makes employment numbers different from jobs based in the state is that they include Rhode Islanders who are working elsewhere.  Theoretically, then, with the big gains in employment in Massachusetts and Connecticut, one would expect employed Rhode Islanders to put some distance between themselves and the trend for RI-based jobs.

On the whole, they haven’t, although February gives a one-month example of how that might look.


  • George from Warwick

    This article dovetails nicely with the one immediately below it … the Fairness… one that details how our State is actively seeking to chase away any businesses that might want to actually locate here

    My own family is illustrative of the problem the statistics allude to

    We have four ‘thirty-somethings’ … son, daughter, SIL & DIL. Of the four, only daughter is employed in Li’l Rhody. The other three work for Mass firms

    Son & DIL got so fed up with having to pay Rhodent income & property taxes — even tho they earn 100% of their income in Mass — that they moved to Quincy a yr ago

    As an added benefit, Romney-care-turned-Obozo-care is way, *way* cheaper than Rhode-care or private employer-sponsored insurance here. So cheap in fact that firms have to practically give it their employees for free to keep them from defecting to Obozo-care and triggering penalties

    I just wonder how long it’s going to take daughter & SIL to wise up and move north across the border. (( My daughter works in a high-demand job in the health-care industry so she can move basically anywhere ))

    Maybe the new 0.0008 ‘use tax’ on MAGI — which Justin mentioned and which will cost them more than a hunnerd bucks a yr — will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back

  • Jon K. Polis

    For a more detailed analysis of the employment/underemployment/ unemployment situation;
    Refer to The Bureau Of Labor Statistics; http://www.bls.gov/lau/stalt.htm …which is updated quarterly…
    …as of 01/30/2015, Rhode Island’s Employment/Unemployment Rate
    of measurement at Level U6 is: THIRTEEN POINT FIVE CENT (13.5%)….
    which is down NINE-TENTHS OF ONE PER CENT (.09%) from last quarter’s measurement…
    ….and as of 03/06/2015, the National Employment/Unemployment
    Rate of measurement at Level U6 is: ELEVEN PER CENT (11.0%)…
    (further details can be found at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm which is updated monthly….)

    The next publication of the employment/underemployment/unemployment situation, broken down by State level,
    covering the previous four quarters ending in March 2015, is tentatively scheduled for Friday, April 24, 2015.