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Sunday, October 22, 2023

Charlestown and state unemployment rates reaches record low

Charlestown rate drops to 2.2%!

Lowest ever in RI Dept. of Labor data table (since 1990)

By Nancy Lavin, Rhode Island Current

DLT city and town data

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate has hit a historic low, dropping to 2.6% as of September, according to a monthly jobs report from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) published Thursday.

The new unemployment rate – the lowest in state history– comes as the state added 1,400 private sector and government jobs from August to September, according to the report. Despite recent job gains, Rhode Island lags behind most states when it comes to post-pandemic job recovery, having brought back 89.2% of the 108,300 jobs lost during COVID-19 lockdown rules.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Charlestown's new 2.2% rate reflects the sharp upturn in Charlestown's economic prospects since the ouster of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) from power last November. 

The CCA famously did not care about jobs or unemployment; in fact, their Comprehensive Plan, authored by CCA de facto leader Ruth Platner, anticipated no employment growth except in low-wage tourism and service jobs, typically held by people who can't afford to live in Charlestown.

The 2.2% unemployment is the lowest ever in the state Labor Department records. The total number of Charlestown workers collecting unemployment benefits is also at its lowest level - 92. And the number of Charlestown residents working has now reached 4,167 compared to the shrinking workforce under the CCA's governance.

Remember that next November.

- Will Collette

“We came out of the pandemic strong and we continue to be strong,” Matt Weldon, DLT director, said in an interview on Friday. “We still have a ways to go, but I think we are seeing the comeback.”

The state’s favorable unemployment rate also reflects a shrinking workforce, with 14,900 residents actively looking for work as of September marking a 300-person decrease over August, and a 4,400 decline year-over-year. However, the number of residents in the workforce who actually have jobs has increased, with a 63.4% labor force participation rate as of September, up from 63.3% in August.

Rhode Island also fares better than other states, with 3.8% unemployment and 62.8% labor force participation nationwide as of September. 

State monthly job gains were driven by an increase in “other” jobs – up 800 – as well as construction and health care and social assistance industry jobs, which jumped 600 over the prior month. Since May, health care and social assistance jobs have increased by 3,600, reflecting jumps in outpatient services employment.

These job gains were partially offset by month-over-month-declines in professional and technical services, government and retail trade.

Economists and labor market analysts have cautioned against using monthly jobs data to draw conclusions about long-term economic trends, especially because the rise in remote work has shifted the typical relationship between job counts, unemployment rates and labor force participation. 

Still, Gov. Dan McKee lauded the monthly jobs data as a positive sign.

“Rhode Islanders are hard at work, reflecting a thriving economy and underlining the state’s commitment to economic development and employment opportunities,” McKee said in a statement. “As more Rhode Islanders find meaningful employment, the entire community benefits. Increased employment opportunities not only improve the quality of life for individuals and families but also contribute to the overall prosperity and well-being of the state.” 

Weldon also pointed out that Rhode Island has maintained a low unemployment rate for several years while growing its labor force and the number of employed residents over the last six months.

“What that tells me is there are more people looking for work, actively involved in their job search and actually finding jobs,” Weldon said.

Updated to include comments from Matt Weldon, DLT director.



Rhode Island Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Rhode Island Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Janine L. Weisman for questions: Follow Rhode Island Current on Facebook and Twitter.