RI KPI Q4 Briefing: Positive Results Across Key Economic Indicators While Underlying Issues Remain

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island’s economy experienced positive results across most key economic indicators in Q4 2023, according to the Rhode Island Key Performance Indicators (KPI) Briefing, released today. The Briefing, completed by The Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), showed fourth quarter growth in metrics including Rhode Island-based jobs, employed Rhode Islanders, the labor force participation rate, and net sales tax receipts, an indicator of aggregate demand. While the state’s unemployment rate ticked up from 2.7 percent in Q3 to 2.9 percent in Q4, it remained at historically low levels, and was lower than in both the U.S. and the New England region (3.7 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively).

The number of non-farm jobs based in Rhode Island increased quarter-over-quarter, but notably remained below pre-pandemic levels, with the state having recovered 91.2 percent of jobs lost during the pandemic. In contrast, both the New England region and the U.S. have surpassed pre-pandemic jobs levels.

In Q3 2023, the Ocean State saw GDP growth of 3.9 percent over Q2 2023 (annualized), compared to 4.7 percent in New England and 4.9 percent in the U.S. GDP data from Q4 2023 are not yet available. Rhode Island has trailed the region and nation in GDP growth for the last two decades.

“The fourth quarter data are largely positive,” said Michael DiBiase, President and CEO of RIPEC. “We saw real growth across most key metrics, including the number of employed Rhode Islanders, which grew by 1,400, and non-farm employment, which expanded by 2,800 jobs. While the number of employed Rhode Islanders exceeds pre-pandemic levels, there are still 7,800 fewer Rhode Island-based jobs than before the pandemic. This suggests some level of economic vulnerability, especially considering that New England and the U.S. regained all lost jobs several quarters ago. That Rhode Island’s GDP growth continues to lag the region and nation also points to underlying issues in the state’s economy.”

Employment growth was split across major industry sectors in Q4 2023, with Rhode Island experiencing job gains in five sectors and losses in four. Construction experienced the steepest decline quarter-over-quarter of any major industry sector (2.0 percent decrease), but along with manufacturing, it remains one of only two sectors with greater employment than before the pandemic. Leisure and hospitality had the highest level of employment growth across sectors (2.6 percent increase), but there remain 2,800 fewer jobs in this sector than before the pandemic.

The data set used to create the Briefing is available here.

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