Updated January 29 at 11:29am
WORKFORCE

R.I. jobless rate near 4-year low

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CRANSTON – Rhode Island’s unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent for December, the lowest unemployment rate for the Ocean State since March 2009, the R.I. Department of Labor and Training said Thursday.

The 10.2 percent jobless rate represents a 0.2 percentage point drop from November, when the figure remained unchanged at 10.4 percent from October.

The number of employed residents rose by 2,200 over November figures, totaling 508,400 for December, the fifth consecutive monthly increase in employed Rhode Islanders and the highest level since February 2009. The number of unemployed Rhode Islanders dropped by 900 during December to 57,800.

The state’s labor force totaled 566,200 in December, a 1,300-person increase from November 2012 and a 4,200-person increase from December 2011. According to the DLT, this represents Rhode Island’s largest labor force since December 2010.

The Ocean State also saw an increase in Rhode Island-based jobs, which rose 1,200 over the month, according to the DLT report. Estimated nonfarm payroll in the state totaled 458,000 in December. In all, Rhode Island’s job count is up 900 from January 2012 and 900 since December 2011.

The professional and business services sector added 1,100 jobs over the month, which the DLT attributed to increased payrolls in office administrative services, services to building and dwellings, and waste management services.

Gains of 600 jobs were reported in both the educational services, and accommodation and food services sectors. The growth in the educational services sector was attributed to employment increases at a private college along with gains in educational support services. The accommodation and food services industry was mainly attributed to restaurants and bars.

Smaller gains were seen in the health care and social assistance industry (200), wholesale trade (200), retail trade (100), arts, entertainment and recreation (100) and transportation and utilities (100).

Offsetting the growth in the aforementioned industries were losses in construction (900), other services (500), manufacturing (200) and financial activities (200). Employment remained unchanged in December in the government, information, and mining and logging sectors.

In December, production workers in Rhode Island’s manufacturing sector earned an average hourly wage of $18.62, down 16 cents from November 2012, but up 83 cents from December 2011. Manufacturing sector employees worked an average 41.4 hours per week during the month.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.8 percent for December, unchanged from the figures reported for November, but down from the 8.5 percent reported in December 2011.

The DLT plans to release newly revised employment figures for the entire 2012 calendar year in February following the completion of the annual benchmark process.

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