March 2015 Employment: Returning to Increases… and Skepticism

There isn’t much to say about Rhode Island’s labor force and employment data, this month.  Last year’s post for the March employment data was subtitled “Another Boom That Nobody Feels.”  We’re there, again.  Last year, March employment was supposedly up 4,000 people from January.  This year, it’s 4,005.

The main points of interest, at this point, will be how soon the statisticians get around to turning the upward leap into a plateau and how much the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revises the numbers down next year. After the revision, BLS dropped last year’s 4,000 to 1,736.  We’ll have to wait and see how low this year’s number goes.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  The unemployment rate is down to 6.3%, a number not seen in the Ocean State since January 2008, but that’s only because so many people have left the labor force.


One notable difference from this year’s March employment compared with last year’s is that Massachusetts and Connecticut are no longer giving Rhode Island the consolation prize of being compared with stagnant neighbors.  They’ve been on the upswing for a while, now.


If we’d like to stretch for a silver lining, the following chart shows that big downward revisions of their results have thrust Mississippi and West Virginia below Rhode Island and Michigan since last year, when it comes to states’ distance from their pre-recession peak employment.  The Ocean State still lags the country, though, and three of its five New England neighbors have managed to cross the 100% line.


The final monthly chart shows that, whatever the survey-based employment numbers show, the tax-return-based RI-jobs numbers continue their painfully slow growth.  In fact, that may overstate things.  The number for this March is exactly the same as the number for last June, which means jobs that are based in Rhode Island may have stalled.

Time will tell whether it’s a formula for growth or for accelerating decline to spend a year of debating a minor-league baseball field as the state’s economic salvation while Governor Raimondo looks for new ways to tax Rhode Islanders and the General Assembly layers on another session’s worth of new rules and regulations remains to be seen.  Sadly, with a year and a half to the next election, Rhode Island can only hope the State House geniuses really do know better than the general public how to grow jobs.

Alternately, it’s a pretty safe prediction that people will continue to leave the labor force and flee the state.


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