Rhode Island is continuing its slow march toward an improved economy, but still struggling to find some economic momentum, according to economists in the Ocean State.
While the forecast is for modest growth, Rhode Island’s current ranking as the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 9.2 percent, along with its glaring lack of adequately skilled workers to fill open jobs, casts a familiar shadow over the economic landscape.
“We are doing better, when you paint the bigger picture - if you look from 2007, at the beginning of the recession, to 2012,” said Bryant University associate professor of economics Edinaldo Tebaldi.
“We have Rhode Island economic indicators telling us the average growth in 2012 was about 2 percent and we’ve estimated about 3 percent growth in the last quarter of 2013,” he said. “Overall, for 2013, there’s more than 2 percent growth in GDP,” said Tebaldi.
Calculating strictly by job numbers, there’s been improvement, he said.
As of January 2011, there were 459,500 people employed in Rhode Island, he said. That employment number rose to 475,100 as of January 2014.
“That’s a [sizeable] 3.4 percent increase in the number of jobs based in Rhode Island,” said Tebaldi.
The current slow growth looks even better if you view it from a longer-term perspective, he said.
“Starting with the recession in 2001, we saw very little growth in Rhode Island in population, GDP or employment,” said Tebaldi.
“We started to see growth in 2012,” he said. “Seeing modest growth is a positive sign the economy is doing a bit better.”
The Rhode Island Current Economic Indicator by Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and Bryant University’s Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies released Feb. 17 stated that, “Overall, the state’s economy looks better now than it has in the last few years because of both sustained job and income growth since 2012.” The report predicted a 2.7 percent rate of growth for the first quarter of 2014.
Yet amid some promising signs, “there is a dark side,” said Tebaldi.