RI Escapes the Northeast’s Regional Recession

Over the past few months, something momentous has happened to Rhode Island’s economy.  For the first time in nearly a decade, Rhode Island is outperforming our neighbors on jobs.  The whole Northeast is in the midst of a regional recession.  From Maine to Pennsylvania, the unemployment rate is rising sharply.  The one exception?  Rhode Island.  Our unemployment rate continues to fall.  This might be temporary.  We may yet follow our neighbors into the double dip, but for now it appears that we are holding strong.  Given that our jobs picture remains the worst in the region, this news is sorely needed.

Unemployment rates in the Northeast since 2000. Note the sudden upsurge this year in the unemployment rate of every state except Rhode Island. Bureau of Labor Statistics data plotted via Google Public Data.

The reasons for this sudden recession in the Northeast are not a settled question, but the main culprit seems to be large European-style austerity measures.  These measures center around the large cuts in public employment Carcieri was so fond of.  Carcieri, however, is no longer governor, and it seems that our state’s long decline (which began, incidentally, when he took office) may finally be over.  Lincoln Chafee, while hamstrung by a conservative, anti-growth General Assembly, at least is not actively working to wreck Rhode Island.  That is a big step in the right direction, and personally, I am ready to break out the champagne.
I may be the only one.  The media have gotten so used to reporting on our steady slide behind our peers that they apparently no longer bother to check the unemployment numbers.  On Tuesday, GoLocalProv reported that “economic expansion in the state remains below the level to significantly impact the state’s jobs picture, (sic) and remains below national and regional growth.”  Normally, that would be a pretty good guess, but right now we are actually outperforming our neighboring states.
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I am the Rhode Island State Coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America. My primary interest is Rhode Island's economy and what we can do to fix it.

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