A big jump in Rhode Island recipients of TANF welfare payments led the Ocean State to slip from 41st to 42nd in the Freedom Factor of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), although the state’s overall rank remained the same.
Seven of the 13 datapoints used for the index have been newly updated. Employment was up a significant 2,871 from the previously recorded number, while labor force rose 1,836. (A surge in these numbers that is later revised away has become an annual pattern.) On the other hand, RI-based jobs decreased by 600. (Note that these are calculated with pre-revision data for the prior month.) Meanwhile, SNAP enrollment decreased by 2,809, but Medicaid enrollment increased 5,478 and TANF (cash assistance) enrollment increased a whopping 3,294 (37.0%) from the previously recorded number from September. This month, new personal income data was also released, showing an increase of $660 million (1.5%).
The first chart shows Rhode Island still in the last position in New England, at 48th in the country. Elsewhere in New England, Maine slipped a rank, to 19th, while Vermont held (once again) at 21st. Connecticut and Massachusetts each moved two spots in opposite directions, thus switching spots. Massachusetts now leads, at 33rd, and Connecticut takes second-to-last in New England, at 35th nationally.
The second chart shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England and the United States on JOI. The Ocean State lost ground against both averages. In keeping with our skepticism of the official unemployment rate, however, Rhode Island made up some ground on the gaps for unemployment rate (third chart).
Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:
- Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI held at 35th.
- Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI fell one spot to 42nd.
- Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI held at 46th.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 3, 2017
Surge in Public Assistance Rolls Holds Back Ocean State
Despite its technical failures, is UHIP succeeding in driving up dependency?
Providence, RI — Despite the boasts by political leaders about the state’s improved unemployment rate, on a broader national measure on employment and prosperity, Rhode Island remains mired in 48th place nationally and last in New England. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which this week published itsMarch Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).
A dramatic jump in the last quarter of 2016 in the number of people enrolled in TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and Medicaid was the driving factor to keeping the Ocean State’s rating so low.
“We are all too aware of the technical failures of UHIP in denying people their benefits, yet it may be succeeding in another of its goals,” suggested Justin Katz, research director for the Center. “Four years ago we dubbed UHIP the ‘dependency portal’ and, as predicted, in the very first quarter the system went operational, we saw a major spike in enrollment in two major public welfare services.”
JOI takes a broader look at employment and prosperity than does the narrowly defined unemployment rate. JOI makes it clear that meaningful long-term work and high-paying jobs, which are vital to individual dignity and family self-sufficiency, are not in high supply in Rhode Island as compared with other states. A more detailed analysis of the March data by Katz, specifically on welfare and work, can be found on The Ocean State Current, the Center’s journalism and blog website.
With Rhode Island’s weak national ranking remaining unchanged, findings from another national study, the Family Prosperity Index (FPI), where Rhode Island ranked 43rd overall in “economics” and 44th and last in New England in “entrepreneurship,” tend to support JOI’s stagnant rankings as opposed to the false-optimism premised on the unemployment rate.
- 35th on the Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): No change from last month
- 42nd on the Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI fell one spot from last month
- 46th Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): No change from last month
Rhode Island’s poor JOI and FPI rankings are personified by Robert Martinez, a US Navy veteran, who fought a losing battle against oppressive local government regulations and a statewide hostile business climate that has derailed his dream of forging a better quality of life for himself by developing a successful mobile food vendor business.
The Center’s monthly JOI report is based on state and local tax collection data from a variety of federal agencies including the U.S. Census and on income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
Rhode Island has not gained ground on the national JOI metric, remaining – as it has for years – in the bottom five among all states. JOI is a broader and more accurate measure of employment and well-being than the traditionally cited and highly narrow unemployment rate, which has fluctuated more dramatically in recent years for Rhode Island, but which is not an accurate barometer of economic growth or family prosperity.
Supporting the findings of the JOI metric, Rhode Island also ranks 48th in the Family Prosperity Index, the broadest national measure of family well-being.
For the JOI homepage, click here.
For a description of JOI and its three sub-factors, click here.