The biggest change for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s first Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) of the year is that revised employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) wiped away most of the employment progress Rhode Islanders had made and snatched away the much-touted milestone of more than 500,000 jobs in the state. As a consequence, RI fell a spot on the Freedom Factor. In terms of the index itself, the Ocean State is still 47th in the country, with eight of the 12 datapoints updated. (Rhode Island remains the only state not updating its SNAP [food stamp] data, even though the governor’s administration has claimed to have processing under control.)

Employment was down 5,392 people from the first-reported number for December, largely owing to the revised numbers, and the labor force dropped 4,802, and 9,000 jobs in the state disappeared. Quarterly data on more expansive measures of unemployment were a little better, probably because unrevised, with improvement of 200 fewer people saying they have been unemployed for 15 weeks or more and 600 fewer people saying they are involuntarily working only part time. The number of Rhode Islanders relying on Medicaid decreased by 56 enrollees. Unfortunately, however, no other welfare programs have been updated, TANF because data updates are less frequent and SNAP because RI is the only state not updating its information.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England on JOI. New Hampshire leads the region, in 3rd place, nationally. Vermont advanced to 12th place, while Maine slipped to 18th. Massachusetts remained in 36th, but Connecticut fell to 42nd.

The second chart shows the gaps between RI and New England and the United States on JOI, both increasing in November. The third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI improved to 24th.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI fell to 42nd.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.