BOSTON – Despite “worrisome economic indicators,” Rhode Island’s economy is looking better now than during the four-year period between 2008 and 2012, according to the fall 2013 New England Economic Outlook report from the New England Economic Partnership.
The report, released Wednesday and written by Edward M. Mazze, distinguished university professor of business administration at the University of Rhode Island, and Edinaldo Tebaldi, assistant professor of economics at Bryant University, cited an improving labor market and accelerated economic growth among the signs that Rhode Island’s economy is continuing its slow recovery.
Nonfarm employment in Rhode Island was 468,300 in the third quarter of 2013, compared with 465,700 jobs during the same period in 2012 and 462,000 jobs in 2011, which suggests moderate improvement in the labor market. However, a recent study by Economic Modeling Specialists International found that all job growth in the state between 2010 and 2013 was in low-wage occupations paying $13.83 an hour or less.
The NEEP employment forecast for the state – projected at a 1.2 percent growth rate between 2012 and 2017 – trailed forecasts for New England (1.3 percent) and the U.S. (1.4 percent). The forecast indicated little or no growth in the state’s manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, information services and government employment sectors.
The Ocean State’s unemployment rate of roughly 9 percent remains the highest in New England. The NEEP report forecast an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent in 2014, 7.8 percent in 2015, 6.5 percent in 2016 and 6.1 percent in 2017, remarking that “modest job creation in outer years will cause the unemployment rate to stay above the national average until the end of the forecast horizon in 2017.”
Annual labor force growth is forecast at 0.3 percent between 2012 and 2017, compared with a negative annual growth rate of 0.5 percent between 2007 and 2012.
“Rhode Island’s economic challenge continues to be using the state’s assets and capabilities and the region’s strengths to attract and retain businesses and create jobs,” the report stated. “The state will need to grow significantly faster than the other New England states in job creation if the state wants to keep the graduates of its colleges and universities and lower its unemployment rate.”
An average of 5,900 people left Rhode Island between 2005 and 2010, many of them young adults holding college degrees who left the state to look elsewhere for better employment opportunities, the report said.