Guest Column: Edward M. Mazze and Edinaldo Tebaldi
Rhode Island remains behind other states in New England when looking at major economic indicators such as growth of the gross state product and the unemployment rate. However, the state economy is slowly regaining momentum.
For example, seven of the state’s 13 employment sectors experienced growth in 2013. The unemployment rate fell from 10.6 percent in March 2012 to 9.1 percent in March 2013. Tax revenue has seen a robust increase.
The New England Economic Partnership spring 2013 forecast, when compared to the NEEP fall 2012 forecast, shows that the long-term prospects for both the unemployed rate and nonfarm employment has improved, causing the unemployment rate to decrease much faster than expected in the fall of 2012. The long-term outlook has, thus, improved.
Still, these positive signs are short of the positive story in the overall U.S. economy. The Real Gross State Product, which measures the total economic output of the state, is estimated to have increased 1.8 percent in 2012. The Rhode Island Current Economic Indicator for the first quarter of 2013 increased at an annual rate of 1.6 percent.
Rhode Island’s RGSP is forecast to reach $44.9 billion in 2013, an increase of 1.1 percent compared with 2012’s $44.5 billion. By 2017, RGSP is forecast to be $49.7 billion, producing an annual growth rate of 2.2 percent from 2012 to 2017 compared with 0 percent from 2007 to 2012. This growth rate is, however, slower than the 3.2 percent growth rate for the New England area and 3.3 percent for the United States.
Real per capita income is expected to increase 0.5 percent to $39,110 in 2013 and reach $44,796 by 2017, for an annual growth rate of 2.9 percent from 2012 to 2017 compared to 0.3 percent from 2007 to 2012.
Where the jobs are
Revised employment figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the R.I. Department of Labor and Training show that total nonfarm employment in Rhode Island was 466,900 in the 2013 first quarter, compared with 465,300 jobs in the 2012 first quarter, and 459,500 jobs in the first quarter of 2011. And while the revised figures show that the Rhode Island labor market performed slightly better than previously reported, there is still a long way to recover the jobs lost during the 2007 recession.
The employment levels in manufacturing, construction, information, trade, transportation and utilities have significantly declined since the recession hit the economy in 2007. In addition, the forecast indicates that any job creation that will take place in these industries will not be enough to lift the employment levels back to pre-recession levels until 2017.