Report: R.I. economy shows mixed results in Q3 despite historically low unemployment

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s economy experienced mixed results across key economic indicators in the third quarter despite the state’s unemployment rate reaching its lowest point in 35 years, according to a report from the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and the Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University. 

“The data this quarter emphasize an important economic trend in Rhode Island: the growing divergence between the number of employed Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island-based jobs,” said Michael DiBiase, CEO and president of RIPEC. 

The Rhode Island Key Performance Indicators quarterly briefing, published on Monday, shows nonfarm employment fell for the second straight quarter, and six of the state’s nine major industry sectors lost jobs: trade, transportation and utilities; information services; financial services, professional and business services; leisure and hospitality and government.

On the positive side, the state’s labor force participation rate grew, the number of employed Rhode Islanders increased, and net sales tax receipts, an indicator of demand in the economy, experienced a 4.1% bump quarter over quarter and 3% year over year, according to the report. 

- Advertisement -

“There were about 48,000 more employed Rhode Islanders than there were Rhode Island-based jobs before the pandemic, but that difference shot up to about 60,000 at the beginning of the pandemic and stood at 61,400 in this most recent quarter,” DiBiase said. “It is encouraging that the number of employed Rhode Islanders has recently grown to surpass pre-pandemic levels, but we have only recovered 88% of Rhode Island-based jobs lost during the pandemic, suggesting some vulnerability in the state’s economy, particularly given that New England and the U.S. have regained all lost jobs.” 

Rhode Island nonfarm employment was down quarter-over-quarter by 700 jobs and year-over-year by 5,100 jobs, with the state having 10,700 fewer jobs than before the pandemic, the data showed. In contrast, the New England region and the U.S. both experienced nonfarm employment growth in the third quarter. Only three of Rhode Island’s nine major industry sectors gained jobs in the quarter – construction, manufacturing, and education and health services – and only two have higher employment levels than before the pandemic, construction and manufacturing.