By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The first two months of 2013 haven’t seen the economic growth that late 2012’s accelerated recovery might have suggested, according to University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro’s Current Conditions Index, released Monday.
“The data show rather convincingly that Rhode Island’s economy has in fact slowed during the first two months of 2013,” Lardaro said in prepared remarks. “Perhaps even worse, two critical indicators that have been strong performers for some time now may be in the process of reversing their trends.”
Lardaro was speaking to retail sales, which saw a 1 percent decline in February from January. The other metric Lardaro said indicates a slowed recovery is a 7.6 percent increase in new unemployment claims this month.
“This isn’t the first time I can recall seeing less impressive performance than what we had apparently missed after upwardly revised data were released. What a tease,” Lardaro said.
Lardaro last month reported that the state’s economic recovery had accelerated during the last two quarters of 2012 and that the state was headed further into positive territory this year.
Lardaro’s CCI puts a figure to the state’s economic performance over a dozen metrics, measuring momentum, not values.
A CCI indicator greater than 50 indicates progress while a value less than 50 signals setbacks. The CCI for February was 67, down from 75 in January but up from 58 in February 2012.
Eight CCI indicators improved in January, with the largest gain being a 159.4 percent increase in single-use housing permits. Other positive changes were a 21.4 percent decline in unemployment benefit exhaustions, a 1.3 percent decline in the unemployment rate, a 2.6 percent gain in employment service jobs.
Losses were seen in 0.9 percent loss in total manufacturing hours and a 1 percent decrease in government employment.
“Rhode Island fell very far during The Great Recession, and it has managed to make up some lost ground,” Lardaro said. “But we remain far below where we once were. The slowing of growth shown by the CCI means our return to those levels will take longer.”