RI unemployment rate falls again, down to 8.3%

Eyewitness News Job Fair 2013 Directory
A job seeker at the Eyewitness News Job Fair 2013 scans the directory of employers at the event.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s unemployment rate dropped sharply in April for the third straight month, declining to 8.3%, new data released Thursday shows.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 8.3%, down from 8.7% in March and 9% in February, and is now at the lowest level since August 2008, the R.I. Department of Labor and Training said in a statement. By comparison, the April unemployment rate was 6.3% nationwide and 6% in Massachusetts.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee hailed the new numbers as good news, pointing out that Rhode Island unemployment was 11.4% when he took office in January 2011. “The latest numbers are the best we have seen,” he said in a statement.

“Rhode Island’s approach to economic development continues to pay dividends,” Chafee said. “Through investments in education, infrastructure and work-force development, we are building our state’s economy in the right manner and creating a solid foundation for the future.”

DLT said the number of Rhode Island residents who were working rose to 509,500 in April, an increase of 10,000 since January, indicating the jobless rate is falling because more people are working rather than because more people are giving up on looking for work.

The number of unemployed residents fell to 46,200, a decrease of 4,300 since January. The size of the Rhode Island labor force has shrunk by an estimated 18,700 workers since April 2010.

A separate survey of Rhode Island-based employers showed they added 700 jobs in April, increasing the total number of positions on the state’s nonfarm payrolls to 476,000, up by 4,800 since the start of 2014.

The largest April job gains were in construction, which added 900 jobs; health care and social assistance, which added 700; and retail trade, which added 500, mainly in clothing, building material and convenience stores, DLT said.

The largest job losses were in professional and business services, down by 800, which DLT attributed to “a lack of hiring which normally occurs during this time of year” among landscaping and tree-service companies, as well as employment services.

The Great Recession pushed Rhode Island’s jobless rate from below 5% at the start of 2007 to a record high of 11.9% in the winter of 2010. The rate finally dropped below 10% in October 2012, but still consistently ranks among the worst in the nation.

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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