Chart: Less than 60% in RI have a job for the third straight yearMarch 1st, 2013 at 4:36 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
There was understandable relief Thursday following the announcement that Rhode Island’s unemployment rate has fallen below 10% for the first time in nearly four years. But it’s not the full picture.
On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released another statistic about Rhode Island’s job market: the employment-population ratio, which measures how many people have a job out of all the state’s residents ages 16 and up who aren’t in the military or behind bars. The news wasn’t good.
Rhode Island’s employment-population ratio in 2012 was 59.4%, basically unchanged from 2011 – when it dropped to a new low. As recently as 2006, when employment peaked in Rhode Island, the employment-population ratio was 65%. Here’s a chart showing what’s happened:
Long-term unemployment can do long-term damage to those who are out of work for an extended period of time, so it’s unclear how long it will take for Rhode Island’s employment-population ratio to recover to its 2006 level (assuming it does eventually).
This helps demonstrate why experts caution against looking solely at the unemployment rate – it can fall because people give up on looking for work or drop out of the labor force for other reasons, which aren’t signs of healthy job growth. As for the jobless rate? Rhode Island’s 9.9% was the nation’s highest in December.
• Related: How high unemployment changed where Rhode Islanders work (March 1)