November 2015 Employment: A Fitting Way to End the Year


Today’s release of employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is the last we’ll see in 2015, and none should have expected the year to end any differently.  According to the data, November marked the twenty-eighth month in a row that Rhode Island experience a drop in its unemployment rate of at least one-tenth of a percentage point, hitting 5.2%, its lowest rate since July 2007.  Yet, as has been typical, actual employment decreased (by 770 people), but the unemployment rate decreased because even more people stopped looking for work (1,461).

This month’s first chart shows how that mathematical magic works.


As was the case last month, all New England states lost employment (which was true of only four other states in the country).  So Rhode Island’s drop wasn’t terrible within the region.


Unfortunately for the Ocean State, though, with the exception of Vermont, the rest of New England had either surpassed the level of employment it had at its peak.  That means Rhode Island’s results are less of a setback than a continuing ache.  (New Hampshirites would probably not be happy to know, however, that they slipped below their previous peak, this month.)


The bright spot of the monthly report (such as it is) may be the substantial increase in jobs based in Rhode Island (2,200).  However, that increase follows a three-month dip, leaving the total increase above last July at just 900 jobs.

The first month of the year will not only bring Decembers numbers, but also a second-draft revision of the November numbers.  That release will be followed with a longer-term revision of the whole prior year and beyond.  Major downward revisions have become an annual tradition, for Rhode Island, and given the inexplicable jump shown in the chart below, it’s likely 2016’s revision will do the same.  Whether 2016 turns out the year that the stock market crashes again or Rhode Island experiences an overdue cyclical recession for which it is poorly prepared, only time will tell.