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Good news from the Governor’s office about the unemployment rates in Rhode Island. Since 2011, there have been 14,700 new jobs added in the state of Rhode Island and this month alone 2,200 more jobs will be added. The job growth marks a welcomed turnaround for the state economy, which was hampered by ongoing pension liabilities, slow economic growth, and public sector malfeasance. Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of state leadership, Rhode Island’s economy is now on the upswing and growing at a sustainable pace. The unemployment rate has fallen below the national average now at 4.5%.

Construction Industry Boom

One of the biggest bumps to the local economy has been an increase in construction industry jobs. In 2016, 2,200 construction jobs were added to the economy thanks to Rhode Island's $4.8 billion dollar RhodeWorks infrastructure program, along with Rebuild RI through the Commerce Corporation. Furthermore, thanks to these programs, in February alone 700 more new jobs were added in the construction industry. There have also been 19 major real estate projects in the private sector including hotels, apartment complexes, and a massive science complex with Brown University in the past year that have added to the unemployment decrease.

Attracting Larger Companies

Beyond the construction boom, with all the development projects, low cost of living, and attractive tax incentives, in the last year and a half, 15 companies from the Fortune 500 list have opened in Rhode Island. This list includes GE Digital, Johnson and Johnson, Agoda, and Virgin Pulse. These companies have helped increase job growth both directly and indirectly by spurring other economic boosts that have led to job creation.

Overcoming the Pension Crisis

The biggest inhibitors of growth in Rhode Island in recent years was the pension crisis. In 2012, it was predicted that taxes to support pensions would have to raise 20%. In order to combat the impending budget crisis, the Governor, working with the general assembly and city and town leaders, raised the retirement age, replaced guaranteed pension benefits with 401(k) plans, and help mitigate the cost of living raises by tying them to investment returns. This bold plan solved the pension crisis without raising taxes, allowing for the ability to attract new businesses to the area.

The Next Step In Economic Growth

With so many new jobs being created, Rhode Island’s state legislators have been investing in job training and educational initiatives to help ensure that the new jobs being created go directly Rhode Island residents. One program, the Rhode Island Promise, helps graduating students receive a free associate’s degree. So not only is Rhode Island experiencing record unemployment rates thanks to state leadership, but residents are more prepared than ever to adapt to the changing job market. With the news about the declining unemployment rate, coupled with the low cost of living and great area attractions, it’s no wonder the Providence, Rhode Island housing market is improving. Rhode Island is quickly becoming one of the best places to live in the United States and will continue to see new growth over the coming years.  

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Jim DeRentis
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