Unemployment rate dips to 9.2%; jobs added

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s jobless rate dipped to 9.2% in January as the state’s employers added 3,800 positions, according to new data released Thursday.

The R.I. Department of Labor and Training said the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 9.2% in January, down from 9.3% in December, which was the worst in the country. The January unemployment rate was 6.8% in Massachusetts and 6.6% nationwide.

Rhode Island’s jobless rate fell below 10% in October 2012 after staying in double-digits for more than three years. That was during and after a painful recession that sent unemployment soaring from below 5% in 2007 to a record high of 11.9% in the winter of 2010.

The state has struggled to achieve a strong pace of employment growth since then. In fact, there were actually fewer Rhode Island residents employed in January – 499,700 – than there were when the jobless rate was at 11.9%, which indicates that unemployment is falling mainly because Rhode Islanders are dropping out of the work force altogether.

The number of Rhode Island residents in the formal labor force – whether employed or unemployed – increased to 550,300 in January, but was still down 9,700 from the same point in 2013. Approximately 50,600 Rhode Islanders were unemployed but actively seeking work in January, down 3,200 from the previous year.

In brighter news, a separate survey of Rhode Island-based employers showed them continuing to increase the number of people they have on staff.

DLT said there were 475,000 jobs on Rhode Island payrolls in January, the highest level since October 2008, which was the height of the financial crisis. That was an increase of 3,800 jobs compared with December. Officials attributed much of the January increase to a technical change in how jobs are counted at local colleges.

Employment in health care and social assistance reached a record high of 81,100 jobs in January, up 700 compared with December, thanks to lower-than-expected layoffs in ambulatory health care services and at nursing homes, DLT said.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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