August Employment: Where Are the Employed Going?

Rhode Island led the country in percentage-point employment drop, from July to August.  If the labor force had not fallen over that span, the unemployment would be well above its official 9.1%, at 9.7%.

The labor force has dropped so much since the recession began that the number of people who are working and looking for work is almost the same as the number who were employed in January 2007.  At the current rate of decline, in another month, it will be as if everybody who was unemployed that month had simply given up.  If that hadn’t been true — if the number of people employed now were measured against the number of people in the labor force then — the unemployment rate would be 12.9%.

The first chart of this monthly update illustrates just how bad of a summer the Rhode Island employment scene has had.

Rhode Island Labor Force and Employment, January 2007 to August 2013

Putting Rhode Island in the context of its two contiguous neighbors shows that the state is not the victim of a regional catastrophe.  Connecticut had been in a dramatic down slide for two and a half years but now appears to have joined Massachusetts in mere stagnation.

RI, MA, and CT Labor Force and Employment as a Percentage of Jan 2007 Labor Force, Jan 2007 to Aug 2013

Rhode Island is also on track to soon overtake Michigan as the state that is the farthest from its pre-job-crisis employment level. Rhode Island’s employment level is 91.5% of its maximum level (in December 2006).  At 90.8%, Michigan, which became a right-to-work state last year has been gaining ground, while Rhode Island has been losing it.

United States August 2013 Employment Percentage of Pre-Crisis Peak by State

The last chart of these updates is typically among the least dramatic, but this month marks a reversal.  As of August, Rhode Island no longer has more employed residents than it did when the national jobs recovery fully kicked in in February 2010.  It is one of four states currently in that condition.

United States Employment Growth by State, February 2010 to August 2013

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