For the first time in years, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is out of the bottom three for the nation, down to 9.4%. Once again, however, the Ocean State’s “improvement” hinges on a loss of people in the labor force.
The first chart below shows that, while employment edged up in February, the total labor force (those either employed or looking for work) continued to fall. February’s number was down, and at the same time, January’s number was revised downward, as well. If the labor force had held steady from December, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate would still be a worst-in-the-country 9.8%.
The second chart shows that the Ocean State still has a long way to go to reach its January 2007 level of employment, and once again remains well behind Massachusetts and Connecticut, although Connecticut has been closing the gap through its own downslide.