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By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Flawed data put out by the R.I. Department of Labor and Training understated employment gains and overstated the state’s unemployment, according to University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro’s Current Conditions Index.
“I was informed by the R.I. DLT that the current labor market data has been understating job change, and that employment has been rising for some time now,” Lardaro said.
“So, in an odd and circuitous way, my overall conclusion last month that Rhode Island has not entered nor is about to enter into a recession proved to be correct,” added the economist.
Lardaro said his conclusion – based on the February CC Index – that the state continues a recovery period was correct.
That makes March 2012 the 25th consecutive month of recovery.
The CCI Index tracks Rhode Island’s economic performance across a dozen metrics. A number greater than 50 signifies progress. A value less than 50 denotes the opposite.
Lardaro now will provide two index numbers.
The top value used the flawed existing labor market data and the lower value is based on likely changes that will emerge from the two indicators most affected – the private service producing employment and employment.
The March index measured 75/58.
The lower value index was up from 50 in February and but down from 67 in March 2011.
In March, four out of five non-survey-based CCI indicators showed year-over-year improvement: retail sales, by 4.4. percent, U.S. consumer sentiment, by 13 percent, new claims for unemployment, falling by 7.1 percent, and benefit exhaustions, which measures long-term unemployment, falling by 10.7 percent.
“The first quarter was fairly good to Rhode Island, as the pace of economic activity accelerated, ending the doldrums it found itself stuck in during the second half of 2011,” Lardaro said.
The state saw a net job loss of 2,200, but Lardaro said it is “safe to conclude” that the unemployment rate is actually lower than the published 11.1 percent and more likely between 10 and 11 percent.