The Rhode Island economy has struck-out when evaluated on a broader playing field, despite celebrated improvements in the traditionally cited monthly unemployment rate. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which today launched its new Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), a more comprehensive measure of a state's overall economic outlook.
While recently closing its regional and national unemployment gap and improving to T-34th nationally at 5.4% with regard to its unemployment rate, Rhode Island scored just 17.4 on the new 0-100 JOI scale, ranking 48th in the nation in March, actually widening its negative gap as compared with New England and other states in the past few years.
JOI was developed by the Center specifically to address this common misinterpretation of employment data and to present lawmakers with a more complete picture.
"I don't think too many Ocean Staters feel as good about their family's prosperity as the unemployment rate might suggest. It's important that our lawmakers understand this dynamic," said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, adding "We want lawmakers to be successful, however right now, there is no joy (JOI) in Mudville,"referring the famous Casey At The Bat poem, where the hero strikes out.
In ranking 48th out of the 50 states, Rhode Island suffered swings-and-misses on each of the three "factors" that comprised its March JOI score:
Strike One: RI ranks 48th on the Job Outlook Factor, which more broadly measures people's optimism about work opportunities in the current market as compared with the traditional monthly unemployment rate; RI has lost ground on this factor both nationally and regionally since 2012
Strike Two: RI ranks 39th on the Freedom Factor, which compares the number of jobs and people working with the number of people receiving public assistance; RI has lost significant ground on this factor against the nation and New England states since 2012
Strike Three: RI ranks 46th on the Prosperity Factor, which compares gross personal income with total government taxes collected; RI again has recently lost ground against all states on this factor
The full March 2016 JOI analysis, with numerous charts, can be viewed here.
JOI is the collaborative result of a local-national team of economists, budget analysts, and policy experts. The Center will update the JOI index, which is comprised entirely of government data, on a monthly and quarterly basis, as new data is released.
A video discussion with JOI creator, Justin Katz, along with a more detailed description of JOI, including charts and graphs, can be found on the JOI homepage atwww.RIFreedom.org/JOI .