Q4 2019 Current Economic Indicator Shows Expanding Economy but Persistent Growth Gap

Providence (February 2020) – Today, the Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council jointly released the Rhode Island Current Economic Indicator (CEI) Briefing for the fourth quarter of 2019.

The briefing showed that the improved economic conditions and job growth seen in Rhode Island over the past few years continued into Q4 2019, with the state’s GDP expanding by an annualized rate of 2.0 percent during the quarter and by nearly 2.5 percent for the full calendar year. GDP growth is forecasted to increase 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2020. Total nonfarm employment grew over the past year by 11,100 jobs to 506,300 jobs in December—the highest number of jobs created in a year since 1999. The unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in December 2019, compared to an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent in January 2019. 

However, as the figure here displays, the state’s economic growth has not kept pace with the remainder of New England and the United States over the past several years. Over the past year, this gap has remained essentially unchanged.

In response to the Q4 Briefing, RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase noted that “hese data points demonstrate that Rhode Island’s economy continues to deliver strong performance, essentially expanding at the same rate as the rest of New England and the nation as a whole over the past year.  However, Rhode Island has not been able to close the growth gap that has grown and persisted since the Great Recession.”  

The quarterly CEI, developed by economists at The Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University, combines several key gauges of economic activity in a single statistic that measures the overall current economic conditions in Rhode Island. It is calibrated to grow at the rate of the Real Gross State Product and, therefore, can be interpreted as the underlying growth rate of the state economy. The CEI is calculated using the most current available data for the state.

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