Rhode Island Employment Snapshot, June 2014: Really Pushing Credulity

You’ll never guess what Rhode Island’s unemployment rate did in June.  It went down again!  To 7.9%.

That’s still worst in the country (tied with Mississippi), but Rhode Island has now had its best six months of employment growth in recorded history.  For the past three months, the Ocean State has had the most employment growth (as a percentage) in the entire country.  It’s boom-time in the Ocean State, even if we’re still at the wrong side of just about every ranking, and even if it doesn’t feel like things have turned around.

In fact, there were actually 400 fewer jobs based in Rhode Island in June than May, yet, somehow an additional 3,246 Rhode Islanders found work… according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in cooperation with the state Dept. of Labor and Training.

The first chart below illustrates just how bizarre the numbers look, given the state’s recent history. Since December, more than 16,000 Rhode Islanders have found employment.  The total number hasn’t been so high since November 2008.

The second chart provides a longer-term sense of the results. Rhode Island is still below its employment level just before the jobs-crash of the recession and still lags both of its neighbors dramatically when it comes to reclaiming jobs.  Indeed, Massachusetts has now surpassed its pre-recession peak, and Connecticut is just about there.

The third chart compares Rhode Island’s unemployment rate with what it would have been if the state’s labor force had held steady. It shows that unemployment never got as low as Rhode Island officials had claimed, and the growth in the gap between the two lines is steadier and more dramatic, with the exception of the peculiar results these past three months.  Even if the results since December reflect real growth, Rhode Island’s unemployment rate would still be over 10% if people had not stopped looking for work.

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