By Ted Nesi
PBN Web Editor
PROVIDENCE – It turns out unemployment in Rhode Island didn’t get quite as high last fall as we thought, which at this point may be enough to pass for good economic news in the state.
According to annual revisions to the government’s employment data released Friday, Rhode Island’s jobless rate did not reach 13 percent in September, as the R.I. Department of Labor and Training and the U.S. Labor Department originally reported.
Unfortunately, that also means Rhode Island’s unemployment rate in December and January – 12.7 percent both months – was the highest since the state began to lose jobs in February 2007. The original estimates had shown the unemployment rate falling in October and November.
And, of course, 12.7 percent unemployment only looks good when compared with 13 percent – it is still the highest level of joblessness Rhode Island has experienced in 33 years of records.
The reason for the retrospective change was the once-a-year process known as “benchmarking.” That’s when government statisticians take the original figures estimated from monthly household and employer surveys and replace them with hard data from quarterly tax records.
The revisions showed there were 451,900 jobs in Rhode Island in December 2009, or 1,900 fewer than originally estimated, and 472,500 jobs in December 2008, or 1,300 more than originally estimated.
Rhode Island has lost 44,600 jobs – or 9 percent of the starting total – since employment in the state peaked at 496,500 in January 2007.
That means the state is now closing in on eclipsing the worst job loss on record, during the 1990-1991 recession, when employment fell 9.7 percent from its peak before job growth finally returned.
Additional information is available at dlt.ri.gov.