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Finding Real Solutions to Reverse Unemployment in Rhode Island

Monday, March 17, 2014


Rhode Island's unemployment rate has lived above the 9 percent threshold for 63 consecutive months.

While economic recovery efforts in the five other New England states seem to be faring far better--as the region's combined average unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in December 2013—it is clear that Rhode Island needs to find bold new solutions to help put the state's job market back on track.

"Rhode Island can no longer afford to be at the bottom or near the bottom of every listing of business friendly states," said BankRI's Director of Commercial Banking, Will Tsonos. "Perception plays a large role in weather a business decides to relocate to or remain in Rhode Island. While bold solutions are needed, it will take vision on the part of the entrenched establishments to compromise for the benefit of an overall strong economy."

December 2013 New England Unemployment Rates

  • Vermont: 4.2%
  • New Hampshire: 5.2%
  • Massachusetts: 6.4%
  • Connecticut: 6.9%
  • Maine: 7.4%
  • Rhode Island: 9.3%

Small improvement

Earlier this month, the RI DLT released unemployment numbers for January that show a slight improvement, with the rate dropping to 9.2 percent. That number represents the lowest unemployment rate in the Ocean State since November 2008. Despite the rate drop, though, the number of employed residents decreased by 6,498 in January 2014 from one year prior.

Lardaro Report

In his most recent Current Conditions Index , URI economist Len Lardaro pointed out that new unemployment claims, the timeliest measure of layoffs, increased in January for the first time since August 2013. He also notes that Employment Service jobs--or temporary jobs--an important prerequisite for employment growth, decreased for the second consecutive month.

Finding solutions

Elected officials and candidates have offered their ideas to improve the job economy in the state. These ideas range from corporate tax breaks to attract outside business to bring jobs into Rhode Island, to regulation reform to encourage the growth of small and new business enterprises, to developing new strategies for increasing inbound tourism to the state.

Regardless of what steps are taken, real solutions for the job market will be vital to the progress of Rhode Island's economic development.

This column is part of an ongoing sponsored content series with BankRI.


Related Slideshow: 8 Discouraging Facts About Unemployment in RI


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Worst in the Country

9.2% unemployment rate for Jan. 2014.

Although the national unemployment rate for January was 6.6%, Rhode Island's jobless rate was 9.2% –  making it the highest in the nation. The 9.2% figure is one-tenth of a percentage point lower than it was in December 2013.

Source of data: RI DLT

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Number of Unemployed

64 consecutive months with 50,000 or more unemployed.

The number of unemployed Rhode Islanders decreased from 51,055 in Dec. 2013 to 50,600 in Jan. 2014. That said, the number of unemployed Rhode Islanders has not been below 50,000 since September 2008, which is 64 months.

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North of Nine

Above 9% unemployment for 63 straight months.

So just how long has Rhode Island's unemployment rate been above 9 percent? According to RI Department of Labor and Training statistics, the state's jobless rate has been over 9% since November 2008. That's a staggering 63 consecutive months.

Source of data: RI DLT

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Months at the Bottom

Seven consecutive months with the worst unemployment rate.

Rhode Island's unemployment rate has been worst in country each month since July 2013. Prior to that, the state was tied for worst in the nation with Nevada May 2013 when both states reported a jobless rate of 9.5%. As of Dec. 2013, Nevada's unemployment rate has dipped to 8.8%.

Sources of data: RI DLT; Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Worst in New England

Lagging behind the rest of New England in job recovery.

The rest of New England's states have not reported their unemployment rates for Jan. 2014, but the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that their respective jobless rates pale in comparison to Rhode Island. In fact the average New England unemployment rate for Dec. 2013 was 6.9%.

Here's the complete list:

  • Vermont  4.2%
  • New Hampshire  5.2%
  • Massachusetts  6.4%
  • Connecticut  6.9%
  • Maine  7.4%


Source of data: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Number of Employed Residents

Nearly 6,500 less employed residents than a year ago.

Rhode Island's unemployment rate may be lower than it was in January 2013, but this isn't reflected in the number of employed Rhode Islanders. In fact, there are 6,498 less people employed now than in Jan. 2013.

Source of data: RI DLT

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Shrinking Labor Force

Year-over-year decrease in total labor force.

Rhode Island's labor force increased by 200 to 550,300 in January, but the present workforce has shrunk by 9,700 compared to January 2013.

Source of data: RI DLT

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2013 Average

Next to worst in the nation for 2013.

Rhode Island's average unemployment rate for 2013 was 9.5%, which was the second highest in the country, after Nevada.

Sources of data: RI DLT; Bureau of Labor Statistics

Photo: Flickr/bytemarks


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