April 2018 Employment: Absolutely Positive, Relatively Slow

April’s employment and jobs data looks good for Rhode Island… in isolation.  Employment, labor force, and RI-based jobs were all up a little less than 1,000 people, but then again, they’re up most everywhere.

In Rhode Island, upswings like the one visible in the following chart are pretty typical this time of year.  Typically, they’re revised away when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) adjusts its numbers the following January, although that didn’t happen in as pronounced a way with the latest revision.



Because both employment and labor force (which adds in people actively looking for work) increased, the official unemployment rate remained at 4.5%.  The following chart holds labor force to its level at the start of the recession, in Rhode Island, which on the one hand, shows it to be much higher, at 7.1%, but on the other hand, shows it to have decreased recently, rather than remaining steady.



The comparison with Rhode Island’s immediate neighbors is a mixed bag.  Compared with Massachusetts, Rhode Island is practically standing still.  Connecticut, meanwhile, saw a downward drift.



Most concerning, this month, is that Rhode Island has slipped back to second-to-worst in the country when it comes to regaining lost employment.  The gap from a half-dozen other states is very small, making it essentially a multi-way tie, but the numbers do suggest that the Ocean State is at the bottom of the currently rising tide of employment and economic prosperity.



A chart showing employment as well as RI-based jobs reinforces this impression.  Yes, employment (the darker area) is up, but that trend occurs every year.  Yes, jobs working for somebody else within the state’s borders (the lighter area) are up, but not by much, and apparently at a decelerated rate from the increases of a few years ago.

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The last chart for this monthly report shows New England states’ positions on the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).  JOI takes into account 12 data points, including these employment and jobs numbers as well as income, taxes, and welfare, and it finds Rhode Island to be 47th in the country.

Similar to the results showing Rhode Island’s comparative distance from peak employment, all but one of the eight data points with updates for this iteration were positive, but the Ocean State slipped downwards on one of the three subindexes and its overall score was lower than the prior month.  In short, that means other states are advancing more quickly.



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