January 2018 Employment: Mostly Stagnant… Still


After bumping up reported employment in Rhode Island through its annual revision, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) added around 330 more employed Rhode Islanders for January 2018, over December 2017.  That number was more than equaled by the 334 who entered the labor force, holding the unemployment rate at 4.5%.

The following chart shows that employment in Rhode Island has basically flatlined.



Evaluating the state’s employment situation with the more-telling comparison against the size of its labor force before the financial crisis, more than a decade ago, shows a less rigid flatline at a higher (that is, worse) unemployment rate.  Without Rhode Islanders’ deciding not to look for work, since 2007, the unemployment rate would be 7.5%.



Bringing Rhode Island’s neighbors into the story presents a mixed picture.  Massachusetts is still experiencing employment growth, while Connecticut has begun drifting downward.



Despite the increase in absolute numbers, the revision didn’t do much for Rhode Island’s standing in the race to regain employment after the crisis.  Even after all this time, the Ocean State remains among the handful of states that hasn’t regained its lost employment and, even in that small group, hovers near the very back of the pack.



The final chart shows that, once again, Rhode Island is the last state in New England according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).  The index is intended to be a broader measure of the economy than the employment data, taking into account not only employment and jobs, but also welfare enrollment, income, and taxes.  Unlike the unemployment rate, which can go up even when something positive happens (more people looking for work), JOI is designed so that the upward and downward motion of each data source has the effect on the index that one would expect.