June 2016 Employment: Not Sinking Isn’t Really Great News

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The good news in the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report of employment and jobs for Rhode Island in June is that the state isn’t in free fall; we’re still only stagnant.  The slightly higher unemployment rate (5.5%) resulted from the fact that the 745 more people in the labor force was greater than the 371 more people who say they’re employed.  Jobs based in the state were up 1,700, although that’s still down 2,200 from the number in March.

A chart of labor force and unemployment shows why it would be premature (to say the least) to proclaim this to be a reversal of the state’s employment fortunes.

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Some comparative good news is available if we place Rhode Island’s June performance in context with its neighbors.  Connecticut and Massachusetts both lost labor force and employment, although the gap between those states and Rhode Island (in terms of each state’s progress since the beginning of the recession) remains so huge that they’ve got a lot of room to slip before the numbers are anywhere near comparable.

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A broader comparison is less encouraging, inasmuch as Rhode Island’s company in the bottom 3 of states when it comes to employment recovery since the start of the recession did better in June than did the Ocean State.  Consequently, the tie for second-to-last place has been broken, with Rhode Island fully in that position, and last-place West Virginia gained ground.

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Putting the RI-based jobs number into the picture shows the overall stagnation.  The number of jobs is not only below the March level, but also the December level and has been increasing at a glacial pace for the past year, overall.

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The final chart shows that Rhode Island’s unemployment rate would still be stalled at 9% if the labor force had not continued to shrink for the past year.

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