September 2015 Employment: Back Down Toward Reality?


Pretty much all year, these posts have suggested that the apparent boom in employment in Rhode Island was — intentionally or not — a dramatic overstatement that would be adjusted downward after the end-of-year revision.  In September, the otherwise-undetectable explosion of employment in Rhode Island turned around.  The likely next steps will be three more months of a downward slope, followed by another large downward revision, with the eight-month boom that was reported all year smoothed out to gradually reach the lower final number.

We’ll see about that.

For now, the story according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is that employment fell by 521 Rhode Islanders, with 1,860 giving up looking for work.  Thus, two negative numbers produce an improvement in the unemployment rate.  The line graph tells the story.


Some small consolation may be available in the fact that Rhode Island’s two neighbors have experienced more precipitous drops, and started them sooner.  Of course, as the chart shows, they were in much better shape before it began, and the difference could be further evidence of a large revision on the Ocean State’s horizon.


The regular distance-from-peak chart is most significant in its difference from July (the last iteration of this series).  At that time, Rhode Island was more or less in line with a half-dozen other states, with three convincingly below.  As of September, that collection of poorly performing states had begun to break up, generally not in Rhode Island’s favor.  (If Rhode Island does experience a significant downward revision, and if it is somewhat unique in that regard, then the Ocean State’s standing on this chart will slip.)


As is often the case, the last chart may be the most telling.  It shows the level of employment in Rhode Island as the darker area, with the level of Rhode Island-based jobs in the lighter area.  (Jobs based in Rhode Island are those in which the employee works for somebody else whose business is based in Rhode Island, so it excludes business owners and the self-employed.)

Employment, still well below its pre-recession peak, has begun to turn down after a dramatic increase, but RI-based jobs are essentially where they were at the beginning of the year and are not much increased from July 2014.  As the chart shows, this stagnation contrasts with five years of slow-but-steady increases in the number of jobs in the state.