Study: Job losses at colleges, hospitals held RI back after Great Recession

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The biggest reason employment growth in Rhode Island failed to keep pace with the national recovery after the Great Recession was job losses at local colleges and hospitals, according to a new study.

The study by Mark Maggi, an economist at OSHA’s Boston office, examined why job growth was only 5.1% in Rhode Island from June 2009 to June 2016, barely half the national level of 10.1% over the same period. He found that more than half that gap would have been closed if Rhode Island had matched the national rate of employment growth in education and health services.

“The main takeaway from our analysis of Rhode Island’s industry employment data for 2009 and 2016 is the disparity between the growth rates in the education and health services supersector in the United States and Rhode Island,” Maggi wrote. “This particular supersector was a significant generator of job growth in the nation in the most recent period of economic recovery.”

The study was published in the September issue of Beyond the Numbers, a monthly publication of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

During the seven-year period following the Great Recession, the U.S. saw a 10.5% increase in the number of jobs in education and health care, but Rhode Island actually saw the industry’s job count shrink by 0.2%. The state would have gained more than 13,000 additional jobs over that period if its growth rate had matched the national one.

Two other major supersectors – trade/transportation/utilities and manufacturing – also underperformed the national economy in Rhode Island, costing the state roughly 8,700 jobs from mid-2009 to mid-2016, according to Maggi’s calculations.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook