The number of South Kingstown residents who were unemployed in March is still pretty close to the 22-year peak hit in July 2010. As with other Rhode Island cities and towns that have seen long-term growth, however, its number of employed residents is near its high-water mark, as well.
From 2000 to 2010, South Kingstown’s population grew 9.7%. Over the same period, its average annual labor force increased by 13.3%, and its number of employed residents increased 5.5%.
Since then, however, that upward trend has ceased and begun to recede. In the following chart, unemployment is the gap between the two lines. (The large shift seen in 2010 is likely due to an adjustment in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ model based on new survey data.)
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.