February 2019 Employment: Decreases Continue Past the Revision


Rhode Island’s employment and jobs data for February proved the big downward revision from the month before to be just a start, because the numbers kept slipping.  The mainstream headlines about the latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may be that the unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percent at 3.9%, but that gives the wrong idea.

As the following chart shows, employment (the blue line) actually dropped by 480, as did the state’s labor force (red line), which is the number of people either employed or looking for work, by 861.



Holding the labor force steady better tells the tale.  If the number of people looking for work hadn’t consistently dropped over the past decade, the unemployment rate would have increased one tenth of a percent, to 7.2%.



Unfortunately, Rhode Island doesn’t even have the benefit of sympathy with its neighbors, inasmuch as Massachusetts experienced increases, and Connecticut at least held its ground.



If these trends continue for much longer, Rhode Island will also lose company among states that have not yet regained all of their lost employment.  Of the just 11 states still in that condition, four are on the verge of joining the majority of states above the 100% line.

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Looking at jobs based in the state doesn’t paint any prettier of a picture.  In this case, the line (the lighter area in the following chart) drops by 600 jobs.



The last chart for this monthly report shows New England states’ positions on the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).  JOI takes into account 12 data points, including these employment and jobs numbers as well as income, taxes, and welfare, and it finds Rhode Island to be 47th in the country.


  • Rhett Hardwick

    As SS “Disability” is the new welfare, are there any numbers showing an increase is disability? The numbers seem small enough for that to be a factor.

    • ShannonEntropy

      There used to be a lot of jobs that you could do with just a high school degree, and that paid enough to be considered middle class. I knew, of course, that those have been disappearing for decades. What surprised me was what has been happening to many of the people who lost those jobs: They’ve been going on disability…. But signing up for disability benefits is an excellent way to stay hidden in one key way: People on disability are not counted among the unemployed. “That’s a kind of ugly secret of the American labor market,” David Autor, an economist at MIT, told me. “Part of the reason our unemployment rates have been low, until recently, is that a lot of people who would have trouble finding jobs are on a different program.”

      That’s from a 2011 article; I would imagine the prablem is a LOT worse now. It’s a long read but a fascinating look at our disability system:


      • Rhett Hardwick

        “There used to be a lot of jobs that you could do with just a high school degree, and that paid enough to be considered middle class.” I think not enough credit is given to initiative.

        I am in the habit of starting conversations to see what is happening in America. Recently, I met a “laborer” for a company which cleans municipal water pipes. He was pleased to tell me he makes about $80K. He is buying a “knock down” house in Key West. Doesn’t matter where he lives, jobs are all distant and he is “put up” in motels. He also has a COD so he can drive the trucks that move the heavy equipment. Another guy I met is an independent welder. He has never met a certification he didn’t like, including “operating engineer”. That means he can not only weld a repair on a piece of equipment, but can operate the crane necessary to move the equipment. That makes him a pretty valuable “independent contractor”. He has three Corvettes and his daughter is vacationing in South Africa, seems “middle class”. Another was a “nuclear welder” (a certification I never heard of). He seems to be doing pretty well down at Electric Boat. I watched him cut a nearly perfect circle with a hand held torch, try that sometime. My handyman/carpenter has just given himself a raise to $40 per hr. A friend from prep school who has fallen on rather hard times is driving for Lyft. He tells me $700-1000 a week, but he is willing to work 10 PM to 6 AM. That seems to get him a lot of trips to Boston. I wonder how that will actually work out when he figures in car expenses. But still, initiative has him out there at 2 AM. The IPO may interest a lot of competition.

        • ShannonEntropy

          When that guy said “a LOT of jobs” I think he was talking about jobs that didn’t need a buncha certifications, initiative, or intelligence — like most factory work

          But I agree with your basic point: of all my kids, kids-in-law, nieces & nephews, the one with the highest income is my older sister’s son, who is a welder for a farm equipment manufacturer in Ohio. AND he is the only one of that whole group who never spent a day in college

          Here’s an article you might like, from the now-defunct ROK site — the poor guy got doxxed and otherwise harassed into oblivion cuz his right-wing “manosphere” politics:


          • Rhett Hardwick

            Never knowing where I would end up, I took a course on welding. Mostly, “just so I could”.

            “like most factory work” As a kid, I spent a few years in a “factory town”. Few of the factory workers had a high school diploma (this was before they watered the H.S. Diploma to nothing). Those who had finished high school, tended to be “tool makers” or some other skilled trade. I hired two retired tool makers to help me rebuild my barn, I had never seen carpentry done with a sine plate before. (They would argue about the width of cuts in “tenths”, 10,000ths, and thought my saws incredibly crude. They were trying to estimate for shrinkage. Each morning they would “mic” the blades, seeing if they had “gone off” with temperature change). I don’t think factory work ever produced much of an income without skills, training, or “Certifications” if you will. In recent years, OSHA has pushed the need for certifications. My father got me a job in a factory for a summer, thinking I should know how to operate machinery. I saw a guy stick his finger in a power press and chop it off (OSHA prevents this now with “two handed” safetys) in order to buy a Harley. I don’t know if he had an H.S. diploma.

    • Joe Smith


      Not sure there are clear trends except average age has fallen – seems the proportion has been shrinking since the peak at start of decade.

      state numbers


      First glance thought RI has way more than disabled than say NH – but the dollar amount not so out of whack.

      Of course, especially for disabled pubic sector workers, I’m of the opinion keeping many of them on even if just “cleared” for say clerical work is worth the price between tax-free disability and their current compensation – just to send the message.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Back, right after the Civil War, my Ex worked for Social Security. You could be denied if you were able to “read blueprints”, regardless of available jobs. Now there seems to be an acceptance of “We have to support them, one way, or another”. Even back then, if you had a politician write an inquiry on your case, the file was marked “P.I.”, translated as “Political Inquiry”. This very much improved your chances. Chances of approval were only about 15% on your first application, this went to about 70% on “appeal”. I understand that is still the case.

      • ShannonEntropy

        Joe, that second link you provided is for SSI. That is basically a program for people who have NEVER worked

        People like I am talking about have worked at least for several years and have paid something into the system via their FICA payroll deductions. That program is called SS*D*I