SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Rhode Island turned in a healthy economic report in July, underscoring positive performance with a new level of consistency, according to University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro, who released his Current Conditions Index on Monday.
Lardaro’s index, which uses a dozen data points to measure momentum in the state economy, came in at 75 for July, up from 58 a year ago.
Nine of the 12 economic indicators for the month of July were positive, Lardaro said, including an unexpected 4.1 percent increase in the strength of the manufacturing sector, which was driven by higher employment.
What’s more, this was the fourth time this year that the index registered 75, imbuing the CCI with a consistency that reflects a modest rate of growth and some stability, Lardaro said. The other months that had a score of 75 were January, April and June. March and May came in at 83 and only February hit a low of 67, according to the report.
“In the second half of 2012,” Lardaro told Providence Business News, “Rhode Island clearly saw an acceleration in the pace of its economic activity, so what we’ve seen in 2013 – those numbers show we sustained the momentum, we didn’t fade, and as we enter the third quarter, we didn’t fade. It’s a modest rate of growth, [but] we are clearly growing.”
Other leading indicators that turned in strong performances included an increase of 6 percent in single-unit housing permits; an increase for the sixth consecutive month of U.S. consumer sentiment, up by 17.7 percent; and retail sales, which grew by 5 percent.
Less stellar but more stable indicators include employment service jobs, which rose by a modest 1.5 percent, and the unemployment rate and government employment rate, which remained unchanged for July.
The biggest negative, Lardaro said, was the “new claims” indicator, a reflection of layoffs. New claims rose by 2.2 percent, the fourth increase in the past six months.
“Declining layoffs will be critical,” the report states, “if Rhode Island is to continue improving as we move through the second half of the year.”
Lardaro also noted that his models for the unemployment rate produce different figures than those provided by the state Department of Labor and Training. He finds payroll employment to be 2,000 higher than the “official” number, while employment actually rose, leaving an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent, slightly less than the state’s figure of 8.9 percent.
“Not huge differences,” he says, “but better than the ‘official’ data.”