According to the data posted by the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, West Warwick leads not only Kent county, but also Bristol and Newport counties, in unemployment rate, at 13.2% (not seasonally adjusted).
The City of Warwick saw a greater drop in employed residents, down 7.2% from 2000 to 2010, compared with West Warwick’s 4.9% decrease, but more people in West Warwick joined the workforce. Whereas the number of people working or looking for work only increased 0.6% in Warwick, the corresponding percentage in West Warwick was 4.1%.
Like several other Rhode Island cities and towns, the number of employed West Warwick residents was very near its lowest point over the twenty-two years of DLT statistics in March 2012. However, its labor force for that month, at 16,507, was above the 22-year average of 16,470, leading to total unemployment nearly at an historically high rate.
In the following chart, the distance between the two lines indicates the number of unemployed residents.
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.