February 2016 Employment: More of the Same


Getting back on track after its annual revision, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released in rapid succession its employment data for January and February.  Just last week, the Current reported the January results, and now February is out, although the story is pretty much the same.

Employment is down by a little (162 Rhode Islanders), and the labor force is down a little less (72), while jobs based in the state were up 300.  Given the small change, the unemployment rate (unsurprisingly) held at 5.4%.  To the extent there’s a silver lining to the following chart, it can only be that the labor force was essentially flat, in February, rather than continuing its descent.


Returning to non-silver-linings, it’s discouraging to see that both Massachusetts and Connecticut had some gains in February, while Rhode Island was one of only five states in the country to see an employment decrease.  The others were Alaska, Montana, West Virginia, and Wyoming.


Given that the other states that lost some employment in February are well ahead of Rhode Island in recovering from the recession (you know, the one that started almost a decade ago), it isn’t surprising that Rhode Island lost ground even among its peers at the back of that particular race.  Again, Michigan should be a flashing red light for Ocean Staters.  With its nearly one-percentage-point gain in employment, Michigan further left its long-time partner-in-outlying farther behind.


And finally, bringing the one area of gains — RI-based jobs — into the picture doesn’t do much to improve its story.  The growth in this area (the light shading in the following chart) continues to be even slower than its minimal gains during every year after the recession.