The town of Hopkinton is relatively small, making employment data very reliant on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ model. That said, its seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was on the positive side of Rhode Island’s overall number, 11.4% versus 11.8%.
From one U.S. Census to the next (2000 to 2010), Hopkinton’s population grew 4.5%. Meanwhile, the number of residents in the labor force (working or looking for work) grew 9.8%, although the number actually working only increased 0.5%.
As the following chart shows, however, the data was greatly affected by a significant jump in labor force in 2010 (which may have been a statistical adjustment). Since then, the town’s employment has more or less stagnated, while the labor force has receded, accounting for the unemployment rate’s improvement from its high-water mark around 14%.
Unemployment is represented as the gap between the two lines.
Note on the Data
The population data above comes from the U.S. Census conducted every ten years and is therefore generally considered reliable, to the extent that is used as reference for various government programs and voter districting.
The labor force and unemployment data, however, derives from the New England City and Town Areas (NECTAS) segment of the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A detailed summary of the methodology is not readily available, but in basic terms, it is a model based on and benchmarked to several public surveys. It can be assumed that the sample rate (i.e., the number of people actually surveyed) in each Rhode Island town is very small (averaging roughly 30 people per municipality).
The trends shown, it must be emphasized, are most appropriately seen as trends in the model that generally relate to what’s actually happening among the population but are not an immediate reflection of it. Taking action on the assumption that the exact number of employed or unemployed residents shown corresponds directly to real people in a town would vest much too much confidence in the model’s accuracy.
Be that as it may, the data has been collected and published, and taken a town at a time, it is relatively easy to digest. So, curiosity leads the Current to see it as the best available data to deepen our understanding of trends within Rhode Island. If the findings comport with readers’ sense of how the towns relate to each other, perhaps lessons regarding local and statewide policies may be drawn. If not, then the lesson will be on the limitations of data in our era of information overload.