State unemployment rate drops for sixth month in a row

Contributing writer
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Though the nation’s unemployment rate rose slightly last month, the Ocean State’s unemployment rate dropped slightly for the sixth consecutive month, falling from 10.5 to 10.4 percent, according to reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But despite this progress, Rhode Island still has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, and the number of Rhode Island-based jobs fell by 2,500 during the same time period.

Over half of these lost jobs were from seasonal industries that had held onto workers for longer than expected, said Laura Hart, communications manager for the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. She also said it is important to note the method by which Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is calculated, which represents the number of unemployed residents compared to the entire labor force of both employed and unemployed residents.

Because Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is decreasing as the total labor force increases, “We’re going down for the right reasons,” Hart said. If the “number of Rhode Island-based jobs and number of employed residents was going down, it would be worrisome.” But the fact that there have been “well over 8,000 employed Rhode Island residents in two months” is a very encouraging statistic, she said.

Though the job loss statistics are “not what we want to see,” Hart said, it is “not a total doom-and-gloom situation.”

Of the 2,500 Rhode Island-based jobs lost during in October, 1,500 of them were from the accommodation and food services sector. Hart said the drop was expected after more workers than usual were hired in May and they “stayed on longer.”

Richard Luchette, communications director for Rep. David Cicilline ’83, D-R.I., said the lower unemployment rate “is encouraging, but it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods,” adding that Cicilline’s recent reelection demonstrates voters’ desire for continued economic improvement.

Ever since the 2008 national economic recession, Rhode Island has been burdened by more formidable economic challenges than those faced by other states, Luchette said. Rhode Island was formerly a hub of manufacturing, he said, but many of those jobs have been outsourced to foreign countries like China.

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