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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.

Prev Next

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

Prev Next

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

Prev Next

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

Prev Next

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

Prev Next

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

Prev Next

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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Real solution..end the master lever and you end democratic party that has destroyed this state.

Comment #1 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 03 17

A bit simplistic. Greed killed this state--greed enabled and encouraged by the corrupt politicians--in this case, Democrats.

Comment #2 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 03 17

Keep in mind that states, towns, countries are what they are economically in large part because of their GOVERNMENTS. Rhode Island doesn't have an industry they can blame for their lousy numbers, like Michigan or Nevada, they only have their government to blame. More succinctly, Democrats.

Comment #3 by David Beagle on 2014 03 17

Elections are the time to ask yourself what these politicians can do to make this state better and then ask them why they have not done anything to date, before you vote.
Voting is a privilege but if you as a voter are not going to try to understand what is going on or has been going on in RI, then stay home.
It's time to mobilize voters for the right reasons, a solid economic rebirth is RI (not job training or tax incentives to hire) a real plan to build an economic infrastructure for business to create jobs that will stay and expand in the state of RI.

Comment #4 by Gary Arnold on 2014 03 17

The RI economy is oppressed by big govt, which is controlled by big unions. Taxes, fees and regulations keep going up and up and up, all to support the insane promises made by politicians to buy the public sector votes. And so here we are. I don't see any quick fixes - as the unions still run the show. So good luck to creating jobs and attracting businesses. You gotta get rid of the unions first.

Comment #5 by Dave Johnson on 2014 03 17

Well, that is one way to go, destroy unions and leave no voice for working people in an attempt to attract business by offerring cheap, exploitable labor and no countervailing power to big money. However, I don't see how the poverty wages desired will generate the purchasing power needed to support local business.

Another, different way, expounded I think by the new Commerce Dept, RI Foundation and others is to promote assets such as ports, marine sciences, resurgent agriculture, the food industry, plenty of water and woodlands, the medical industry, arts, historic resources, tourism, our relatively low violent crime rate, a central city that is walkable, hip and compact to attract young entrepreneurial talent, our position on the Boston-New Yor rail line, and quality of life features that much bigger Boston, NY cannot match. All that will require an educated, well-paid workforce that will have the purchasing power to support local businesses. It will also require a political clasa more interested in making RI work better than just rewarding themselves and their cronies.

Comment #6 by barry schiller on 2014 03 17

1. Not tax breaks, but a state business tax policy that is attractive to all businesses. Those here already and potential new ones.

2. Raise our social welfare thresholds above the surrounding states. Our thriving neighbors should not be less generous than us in our welfare program spending.

3. Allow all qualified contractors equal access to bidding of state and municipal projects. Repeal all legislation that prevents one contractor from having an equal opportunity.

4. Extend and strengthen the general assemblies revolving door policy. It is a joke.

Comment #7 by Redd Ratt on 2014 03 17

Barry, Providence was just listed on as a city with crime problems right after Taveras gave the State of the State. As long as people are getting killed on Atwells and Brown kids are getting mugged on the east side, I wouldn't be bragging about Providence's low violent crime rate. But, overall I agree Providence is a nice mid size city.

Comment #8 by Redd Ratt on 2014 03 17

@barry schiller - you are afraid of "no countervailing power to big money" and yet it is the unions themselves that are now the "big money". The old days of workers getting exploited by robber barons like Morgan, Vanderbilt and Rockefeller are long gone. In those days, unions were a necessity. Unions today are a real detriment to private sector businesses and jobs.

Comment #9 by Dave Johnson on 2014 03 17

While we all dig into our pockets to pay back invisible bond holders from the State's video game stupidity start saving to pay the extra $500 million DeepRipoff will charge residents for electricity.

Remember there will be 800 new jobs from DeepRipoff - ooops not a single job yet.

Comment #10 by Jim D on 2014 03 17

To claify violent crime rate: according to FBI, in 2012 (last complete year) the violent crime rate per 100,000 people:

RI 252
MA 405 CT 283

a little further away:
NY 407 NJ 290 ME 123 NH 188 VT 143
PA 349 DE 547 MD 477 W VA 316

some others:
NC 353 GA 379 FL 487 AL 450
out west:
TX 409 NMX 559 AZ 429 CA 423 NV 608 OR 248

Though northern New Engand has lower crime rates, I think it is fair to say that we have a reativey low violent crime rate, but those that occur are bad, and, get a lot of publicity. But not all comparisons about RI are bad, lets think about the positive too.

Comment #11 by barry schiller on 2014 03 17

LOL - guys, the article is about unemployment rate and economic conditions, not crime rates. The economic conditions in RI are absolutely atrocious.

Comment #12 by Dave Johnson on 2014 03 17

@Dave when they have nothing to good to say they change the subject

Comment #13 by Jim D on 2014 03 17

Barry, okay as a state we have have a relatively low violent crime rate. It was unclear that you were talking about the state vs. Providence because you segwayed into what a cool and superior city Providence is to Boston.

According to neighborhoodscout.com PVD is only safer than 8% of cities. I'm okay with you advocating for the joys of urban living (there are many) but lets be clear PVD is not a low violent crime city.

Comment #14 by Redd Ratt on 2014 03 18

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