economic indicators

R.I. continues weak upward trend

MOVING UP: The November reading of the Current Conditions Index shows Rhode Island's economy to be continuing improvement since the summer, but CCI author Leonard Lardaro is still cautious about predicting any long-term strength from the most recent readings.
Posted 1/16/12

KINGSTON – For those looking for improvement in Rhode Island’s economy, November provided some cause for optimism, although University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro was not willing to declare the state to be on “a sustainable higher level of economic activity” just yet.

On the plus side of the argument, Lardaro’s Current Conditions Index hit 67 in November, its highest value since February, led by a 17 percent increase in the average manufacturing wage to $17.38 per hour, as well as a 27.3 percent drop in unemployment benefit exhaustions and a 1.8 percent increase in retail sales. Despite those improvements, however, it was the ninth consecutive month in which the 12-item index failed to exceed its year-earlier value.

(The CCI ranges from 0, when no indicators improve compared to year-earlier levels, to 100, when all 12 show improvement. Values above 50 indicate that the Rhode Island economy is expanding, while values below 50 are indicative of contraction.)

“As I have stated numerous times over the years, in tracking the overall performance of Rhode Island’s economy, there are always groups of positive and negative forces interacting,” Lardaro said in a news release. “Whichever of these dominates ultimately determines the overall direction our state’s economy takes. Suffice it to say that there was a great deal of such interaction in November.”

In total, eight of the dozen indicators improved in November, as the CCI improved from readings of 42 in August and 50 in September and October.

“The pressing question for now,” added Lardaro, “is whether Rhode Island’s economy has broken out of the neutral range it has been stuck in for many months. … We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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