March 2016 Employment: On the Plus Side of Stagnation

Rhode Island’s employment results were generally positive, for March, but the context of other states and of long-term trends advises caution before proclaiming a break of the Ocean State’s stagnation fever.

February 2016 Employment: More of the Same

RI’s February employment data is, at best, stagnant, but compared with its neighbors and other states around the country, the Ocean State is losing considerable ground.

January 2016 Employment: New Year, Still Stuck

Unlike recent years, Rhode Island’s employment numbers didn’t kick off 2016 with a boom (later to be revised down); combined with downward revisions and stagnant results, Rhode Islanders should be concerned.

When 4,000 Jobs Disappear and Nobody Cares

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual revision of employment data, Rhode Island lost over 4,000 employed residents and appears to have stalled at the beginning of last summer.

The Fruits of Halting Education Reform

Through the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, I put out a one-page report today, time to coincide with National School Choice Week. Using data available through the Center’s interactive application to review state-level results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, the one-pager points out something that I’ve noted before: Rhode Island actually gained ground through much of the last decade, particularly among disadvantaged students, but hit a hard ceiling when reforms were halted. Here’s one of the charts from the report with an added political dimension that’s quite striking:


As the General Assembly promises to knock around charter schools this session (with some reforms that I actually break from school choice allies in supporting), Rhode Islanders should rouse themselves at least a little bit to insist that the special interests who control our state — in particular, public education — must be made to step aside in the interest of real, secure, long-term school choice that stops funding government-branded schools and starts funding education. In other words, we need real school choice in the Ocean State.

December 2015 Employment: Despite Unemployment Rate, Down Note for the Year

As we approach a likely downward revision in employment numbers for Rhode Island, late 2015 has already lost a substantial amount of the gains made in the early and middle parts of the year.

November 2015 Employment: A Fitting Way to End the Year

Rhode Island’s final employment report for the year continues the trend that has come to define it: a lower unemployment rate resulting from bigger losses in labor force than employment.

SNAP-to-Jobs Gap Grew in August

Although politicians are looking to the unemployment rate to paint sunny pictures of RI’s economy, in August, the gap between the jobs that the RI economy had created since the recession and the number of Rhode Islanders added to food stamps grew and still led New England.

October 2015 Employment: Still Winning by Losing

Once again, the drop in RI’s unemployment rate is deceptive, resulting from a bigger drop in people actively looking for work than the drop in employment; at least RI had the rest of New England for company in October.

September 2015 Employment: Back Down Toward Reality?

September marked the month that Rhode Island employment stopped its unabated month-to-month growth in 2015, but a downward revision of the whole year should still be expected in January.

Rhode Island’s SNAP-to-Jobs Gap

Since the recession began, Rhode Island has added about one-tenth of its population to the food-stamp rolls, and with jobs recovering slowly, the safety net remains full.

July 2015 Employment: Rhode Island Continues Conquest of Southern New England

Rhode Island’s job market continues to explode… at least according to one Bureau of Labor Statistics measure. If true, that means the Ocean State is the one saving grace of the Southern New England economy.

June 2015 Employment: Jobs Down, MA Down, RI Employment Up?

Employment data for June shows Rhode Island somehow leading the country in employment growth while actually losing jobs based in the state.

May 2015 Employment: Milestones and Missing Workers

Employment and labor force numbers for Rhode Island are still booming, but it remains difficult to believe they won’t be revised significantly, meaning that celebration of a low unemployment rate would be premature.

April 2015 Employment: A Few More Months of Fantasy

Growth in employment numbers has taken off, in Rhode Island, but history and data on RI-based jobs suggests that the numbers have broken free of reality’s gravity.

Toll Discounts for RI Companies Would Almost Certainly Be Rejected by the Courts

In 2009, US District Court Judge William E. Smith decided a lawsuit (Cohen v. Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority) about whether non-Rhode Island residents could be charged a substantially larger toll ($4.00) for using the Newport Bridge than residents were charged ($0.83).

Judge Smith centered the substance of his ruling on a three-part test from a 1994 Supreme Court case, Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. County of Kent, Mich

“A levy is reasonable under [Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Auth. Dist. v. Delta Airlines, Inc.] if it (1) is based on some fair approximation of use of the facilities, (2) is not excessive in relation to the benefits conferred, and (3) does not discriminate against interstate commerce.”

In arguing that the Newport toll structure violated the third part of the test, the plaintiff cited Oregon Waste Systems v. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, where the Supreme Court in 1993 had ruled…

“We have held that the first step in analyzing any law subject to judicial scrutiny under the negative Commerce Clause is to determine whether it “regulates evenhandedly with only ‘incidental’ effects on interstate commerce, or discriminates against interstate commerce”….As we use the term here, “discrimination” simply means differential treatment of in-state and out-of-state economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter. If a restriction on commerce is discriminatory, it is virtually per se invalid.”

However, Judge Smith upheld the Newport toll structure, in part, because he found that the plaintiff had assumed a connection between a residency requirement and interstate commerce which was left unproven…

In this case Plaintiff has failed to identify a specific in-state commercial interest that is favored by the Newport Bridge toll discount at the expense of particular out-of-state competitors, so it cannot demonstrate that the discount discriminates against interstate commerce.

Suffice it to say that in the case of a substantial in-state versus out-of-state toll differential on commercial vehicles, in-state commercial interests favored at the expense of particular out-of-state competitors will be readily identifiable, and the test cited in Oregon Waste Systems that looks unfavorably on differential treatment will be applied.

The Math Works for School Choice, in Rhode Island

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s new school choice economic model projects statewide savings and can help educate the public.

March 2015 Employment: Returning to Increases… and Skepticism

Just like last year, March employment data is showing huge improvement in Rhode Island. Just like last year, it’s likely to be revised downward, and other factors suggest a continuing decline.

February 2015 Employment: Seeming Up While Still Down

February’s employment data begins to raise the question of whether Rhode Island will ever actually grow its labor force. The decreasing unemployment rate may be an indication that people are rapidly giving up on the Ocean State.

January 2015 Employment: Still Not a Recovery Story

The unemployment rate in Rhode Island disguises disturbing trends in Rhode Island’s employment condition.

Employment Revision: 3,729 RI Workers Disappear

Revisions to Rhode Island’s employment data didn’t affect the top-line unemployment rate, but employment decreased, and the Ocean State’s standing relative to other states generally worsened.

December 2014 Employment: Stagnation, but the Calculated Rate Looks Nice

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate may have “improved” below the 7% milestone, but the underlying data continues to give cause for alarm.

School Choice in RI Not a Question of Demand

Data collected by the College Board reinforces survey results showing that Rhode Islanders want alternatives to the state’s languishing public schools.

Rhode Island Education Results in Context

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity unveils an online application to compare states, including Rhode Island, and demographic groups.

November 2014 Employment: Rhode Island Digging Its Separate Hole

Once again, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate has drifted down, but once again it has done so in a way that bucks the national trend of employment gains.

October 2014 Employment: The Mysteries of Stagnation

Rhode Island’s employment picture was indeed “mixed” in October, but context makes it simply bleak.

September 2014 Unemployment: Down Some More

Rhode Island’s September employment story was one of “down.” The unemployment rate was down, but so were labor force and employment numbers.

Moderation of the General Assembly’s Wrecking Ball

Trends in the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Legislative Freedom Index show the unhealthy attitude of the state’s legislators.

RI Income Tax Withholding Shows No Evidence of Employment Boom (But a Bigger Tax Take)

A comparison of income tax withholdings, in Rhode Island, with employment growth indicates that (1) employment statistics have probably been off, and (2) the state’s method of soaking taxpayers is not a wise strategy for economic growth.

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