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By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, 3:50 p.m.)
CRANSTON – Rhode Island’s unemployment rate fell to 9.9 percent in December 2012, dipping below 10 percent for the first time in almost four years, according to annually revised data released Thursday by the R.I. Department of Labor and Training.
The revised labor force statistics show an unemployment rate 0.3 percentage points lower than the 10.2 percent originally estimated and marks the first time since February 2009 that the state’s unemployment rate was in the single digits.
Benchmarked numbers indicate a consistent month-to-month decline in the state’s unemployment rate throughout 2012 and mark a high of 10.8 percent in January 2012, down from the previously published high of 11.2 percent in April 2012.
The department’s annual benchmarking process replaces sample-based job counts with actual tax records from all Rhode Island employers for July 2011 through September 2012.
The resulting data is considered more reliable because it uses tax records from an estimated 32,000 employers than the 1,600 employers used in monthly samples.
The benchmarks also recalculated employment estimates for October through December 2012.
Revised statistics also reveal that the number of Rhode Island based jobs for December 2012 was 6,800 more than originally estimated, going from 458,800 to 465,600.
Sample data overestimated the number of employed Rhode Islanders in December 2012 by 800. Benchmarked data shows there were 507,600 employed Rhode Island residents that month, up from 506,700 in November 2012, and up from 497,400 in December 2011.
The benchmark process shows that all 10 measured industry sectors had upward revisions for December 2012. The largest gains were reported in professional and business services [1,900 more jobs than originally posted], other services [1,700 more], accommodation and food services [1,600 more], health care and social assistance [1,500 more], retail trade [1,500 more], financial activities [1,000 more], and government [800 more].
Downward revisions were reported through the benchmark process in education services [1,300 fewer jobs than reported], information [1,100 less], manufacturing [1,000 less], and construction [600 less].
Sample data also underestimated the number of employed residents for 10 out 12 months last year. That data also overestimated Rhode Island’s labor force by an average of 1,400 each month. The labor force reached its lowest level of the recession and recovery period in January 2012 at 558,100.
Benchmarked data shows the labor force numbered 563,200 in December 2012, up from 562,800 in November 2012 and up from 558,300 in December 2011.
In a statement released reacting to the new data, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee said:
“I am encouraged, though not surprised, to see that our economic recovery in Rhode Island has been more robust than originally reported, with December’s unemployment rate falling below 10 percent for the first time in nearly four years.
By investing in the necessary fundamentals of a sustainable economy – quality public education, sound infrastructure, and workforce development – my administration has been working day-in and day-out to bolster Rhode Island’s recovery. We have created a climate of certainty, stability, and predictability, giving employers the confidence to invest and create jobs in our state.”