Rhode Island’s unemployment rate has inched down to 8.7 percent in March, an improvement, but evidence that the state trails the region and most of the nation in economic activity.
The state Department of Labor and Training reports that new data shows the seasonally adjusted rate declined from 9 percent in February and is now at the lowest rate since September, 2008.
The number of Rhode Islanders who were working increased to 506,000 in March, a hike of 2,700 from February statistics.
Over the past year, total nonfarm employment in the state increased by 6,400 as job gains occurred in 10 economic sectors, including professional and business services, arts, entertainment and recreation, educational services, hotel and food services, manufacturing, retail trade, other services, transportation and utilities, wholesale trade and construction.
There were job declines in Health Care and Social assistance, Information, government and financial activities.
As the election campaign season heats up, candidates of all stripes will continue to point to the unemployment rate an indicator of the economy’s strength. Last month’s unemployment rate in the U.S. was 6.7 percent and 6.3 percent in neighboring Massachusetts. Rhode Island still has the dubious distinction of having New England’s highest jobless rate.
On the flip side, while Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee is often pilloried in the media and among some in the business community for presiding over a sluggish recovery from the recession, it should be noted that the unemployment rate in December 2010, the month before he took office, was 11.5 percent.
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