The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training's Labor Market Information Division in conjunction with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently completed their annual revision of labor force statistics. This year labor force statistics were revised back to January 2012. (See explanation of the benchmarking process below.)
Benchmark revisions to the state's 2016 unemployment rate indicate that the state ended the year with a 4.9 percent unemployment rate, one-tenth (-0.1) of a percentage point lower than originally reported for December 2016. Unemployment rates were unchanged during the first five months of the year and revised downward during the remaining seven months. The largest downward revisions occurred between August and November, when the rate was revised downward by four-tenths (-0.4) of a percentage point in October and by three-tenths (-0.3) of a percentage point in August, September, and November. The June, July, and December rates were each revised down one-tenth (-0.1) of a percentage point.
The year-end unemployment rate of 4.9 percent marks the first time the state's unemployment rate has been below 5.0 percent since May 2007. Over the year, the December rate was down six-tenths (-0.6) of a percentage point from the revised December 2015 rate of 5.5 percent. The pre-benchmarked number had indicated a drop of four-tenths (-0.4) of a percentage point in 2016.
The benchmark process also revealed that the number of unemployed RI residents was overestimated eight of the twelve months in 2016. The year ended with 27,300 RI residents unemployed, 500 less than previous estimates indicated. Over the year, the number of unemployed RI residents fell 2,900; pre-benchmarked data indicated a drop of 2,200. The benchmarked December unemployment level is now currently the lowest unemployment level since March 2007.
As well, the seasonally adjusted employment level was overstated in 11 out of 12 months in 2016 by an average of 1,700, with the largest revisions occurring in the second half of the year. Previous estimates indicated that the number of employed RI residents increased from 522,500 in January to 525,500 in December. Benchmark estimates indicate the state started the year with 522,200 employed residents in January and ended with 523,300 in December. The revised employment data shows that in 2016, employment peaked at 523,400 in November, significantly lower than the previously released peak 2016 employment level of 526,600 reported for October.
At year's end, the number of employed RI residents was up 1,400 from the revised December 2015 level of 521,900. Pre-benchmarked estimates indicated a gain of 3,300.
Labor force estimates, the sum of employed and unemployed residents, were revised downward for nine months, with the largest revisions occurring during the last six months of the year. With the benchmark, last year's labor force peaked at 552,700 in June and July, falling to 550,600 in December, the lowest labor force level since July 2002. Over the year the RI labor force fell 1,500; pre-benchmarked data indicated an increase of 1,100.
The Benchmarking Process: A Brief Explanation
This latest information comes from the department's annual benchmarking process from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor force statistics are revised to incorporate updated inputs, new population controls, re-estimation of models, revised seasonal adjustment factors, and adjustment to new division and national control totals. Both seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted data are subject to revision back to 2012. The new population controls will reflect the annual updating of population estimates by the US Census Bureau.