SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Tied with February for the highest measure this year, Rhode Island’s Current Conditions Index rose 17 points to 92 in May per the report released Monday by University of Rhode Island Economist Leonard Lardaro.
April’s CCI measure was revised from 67 to 75 due a reversal in the manufacturing wage, explained Lardaro.
Published monthly, the CCI measures 12 economic indicators that are representative of the economic climate of the state. A value above 50 implies economic expansion while a value less than 50 indicates contraction.
Calling the May performance, “strong,” Lardaro noted the five “leading indicators” all saw improvements in May. They are new claims, total manufacturing hours, single-unit permits, employment service jobs and United States consumer sentiment.
Lardaro said that he hopes Rhode Island has “finally begun to gain meaningful ‘escape velocity’ from our 2017 performance.”
Continuing “uptrends” which began in January, Lardaro noted that the labor force participation rate (percent of resident population in the labor force) is at its “highest level since March 2016” and the employment rate (percent of resident population employed) is at its “highest value since late 2008.”
Further detail on May’s performance is outlined below:
- New claims, the timeliest measure of layoffs, fell by 13.4 percent which Lardaro said was “questionable” and a factor to keep in mind in the coming months.
- In its 11th consecutive rise, the labor force jumped 1.2 percent – what Lardaro called “truly a major feat in Rhode Island.”
- Total manufacturing hours, a proxy for manufacturing output, “rose strongly” at 7.5 percent in May.
- A 2.1 percent jump was seen in the manufacturing wage in May.
- Reflective of new home construction, single-unit permits, saw a 3.8 percent jump – the third increase in six months.
- Employment service jobs also rose in May – this time by 2.2 percent.
- In its fourth consecutive month of gains, U.S. consumer sentiment jumped by 0.9 percent which Lardaro believes is the result of “trade tensions.”
- In May, a 4 percent increase was witnessed in retail sales.
- Government employment saw a 0.2 percent increase in May.
- A 1.5 percent jump was measured in private service-producing employment in May.
- Benefit exhaustions “fell sharply,” by 29.9 percent, in May, said Lardaro.
- As for the state’s unemployment rate, “the unthinkable occurred again” said Lardaro of the fourth consecutive month of the unchanged unemployment rate.
“Even with this month’s good economic news, it is important to keep our recent economic performance in perspective,” said Lardaro of the 92 measure – the eight time the state has seen that figure since March 2017.
“Some concerns remain,” he added as May is the second month this year to exceed the measure of its 2017 counterpart.