PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island's unemployment rate held steady at 4 percent in January, but the number of jobs in the state fell by 1,700, the state Department of Labor and Training said Thursday.  The state's unemployment rate is the same as the national rate. It's four-tenths of a percentage point lower than a year ago.

The number of jobs based in Rhode Island dropped to 496,000, a decrease of 1,700 jobs from the revised December estimate, the data showed. Most of the jobs were lost in the professional and business services sector, which includes landscaping companies that reported large job declines.

Rhode Island still has 2,400 more jobs than it did a year ago.

The state also said Thursday that it recently completed its annual revision of the number of jobs based in Rhode Island, in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

State labor officials previously said that the number of jobs based in Rhode Island exceeded 500,000 for the first time in the state's history in May. But the revision lowered the job count in May and in subsequent months. The number of jobs based in Rhode Island never exceeded 500,000, according to the new data. The new high point was in December, with 497,700 jobs.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo often highlighted the state's improving economy when she successfully campaigned for re-election last year. Josh Block, Raimondo's press secretary, defended the governor's record to WPRI-TV , saying the Rhode Island economy "has improved by virtually every metric" since she took office.

"Jobs numbers are up, unemployment is down, wages have grown, and dozens of companies have moved or expanded here," Block said.

However, Len Lardaro, an economics professor at the University of Rhode Island, said the state's economic performance has been "mediocre" for the last few years and it's clear that Rhode Island's economy began to slow after May. Here are more of the figures:

The number of unemployed residents — classified as available for and actively seeking employment — was 22,300, up 100 from December. Year over year, the number of unemployed decreased by 2,000.

A total of 13,136 people collected Unemployment Insurance benefits in January 2019, an increase from the 13,072 filed a year ago. These claimants accounted for 49 percent of the total unemployed.

The number of employed Rhode Islanders was 534,000, down 100 from December. Over the year, the number of employed esidents was up 2,900 from January 2018 (531,100).

The state labor force totaled 556,200 in January 2019, unchanged from December 2018, and up 800 from January 2018 (555,400). 

 

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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