Rhode Island’s Changing Labor Force  and Unemployment

A comparison of population changes and labor force participation among younger, older, and prime working-age adults shows differences among these cohorts since the recession began.

Most notably, Rhode Island’s prime working- age population (25-54) decreased by 6.1 percent and labor force participation among this group dropped by 2.1 percent from 2007 through 2012.

Younger and older workers had different experiences.  The population of younger Rhode Islanders (age 16-24) grew by close to 4 percent, but their labor force participation declined as they continued to suffer from high unemployment with a rate of more than 17 percent in 2012.

The population of older Rhode Islanders (55 and older) grew by 11 percent since the start of the recession, and they were the only age group to increase their participation in the labor force.

The Ocean State has suffered from some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, even after the recession officially ended.  In 2012, the overall rate was still more than twice what it had been in 2007.  Minorities were hit particularly hard by unemployment during the downturn.  The average rate of unemployment among African-Americans in 2012 was just over 15 percent, while close to 1 in 5 Latinos (19.3 percent) were still unemployed in 2012, the highest unemployment rate among Latinos in the country.1

As employers shed jobs during the economic downturn, the share of workers forced to work part-time rose sharply.2  This was especially true for minority populations.  More than one-third of African-American and Latino workers would prefer to work full-time, but cannot find full-time work.








2Working part-time for economic reasons is also often referred to as involuntary part time. This category refers to individuals who gave an economic reason for working 1 to 34 hours per week. Economic reasons include slack work or unfavorable business conditions, inability to find full-time work, and seasonal declines in demand.