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BACKGROUND

The Current Conditions Index (CCI) is a monthly indicator that details the present state of the Rhode Island economy by following the behavior of twelve key economic indicators pertaining to housing, retail sales, fiscal pressures, the employment situation, and labor supply:

  • Government Employment
  • Employment Services Jobs*
  • Retail Sales
  • University of Michigan US Consumer Sentiment Index**
  • Single-Unit Housing Permits
  • Private Service-Producing Employment***
  • Manufacturing Man-hours****
  • Average Hourly Manufacturing Wage
  • Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate
  • Resident Labor Force
  • New Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance
  • Unemployment Insurance Regular Benefit Exhaustions

The CCI ranges from 0, when no indicators improve compared to year-earlier levels, to 100, when all twelve show improvement. Values above 50, the "neutral" value, indicate that the Rhode Island economy is expanding, while values below 50 are indicative of contraction. Prior to "The Great Recession" that began in June of 2007, the CCI had never attained a value of 0, indicating that no indicators improved relative to year-earlier values. This changed in 2008, when the CCI fell to 0 on three occasions, and in 2009, when another value of 0 was recorded. Prior to this, the low for the CCI had been 8, which occurred for only a single month on several occasions. For almost all of 2008, the CCI recorded values of 8. The CCI attained its maximum value of 100 on several occasions, for almost all of 1984 and once in 1986. Note that these values occurred exclusively when Rhode Island was still a manufacturing-based economy.

*
Up until February 2006, the CCI used Help Wanted Advertising for Providence, RI as one of its indicators (and toward the end of its use an econometric adjustment was required). This indicator replaces Help Wanted Advertising.
** Prior to the October 2001 report, the CCI used Existing Home Sales in Rhode Island. This indicator replaces Existing Home Sales. 
*** Prior to the January 2003 report, Miscellaneous Service Employment, a major category of the SIC codes, was used. Now that NAICS replaces the SIC codes, the current indicator was chosen to replace Miscellaneous Service Employment.
****Beginning with the November 2005 report, Manufacturing Man-hours will be referred to as Total Manufacturing Hours.

 


THE CCI THIS MONTH
MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS:

FEBRUARY 2014: 58

 

 

The rugged winter weather that continued into February clearly took its toll on Rhode Island’s overall economic performance, although there were still a number of areas where Rhode Island did well. The most obvious tragedy of the weather was new home construction, which was almost nonexistent in February. Yet at the same time, both Retail Sales and US Consumer Sentiment turned in very strong performances. The Current Conditions Index for February was 58, a decline from its (downwardly revised) value in January of 67, and below the February 2013 value, which was also 67. However, I have scored the CCI for February with an asterisk — guilty with an explanation: were it not for the recorded plunge in Single-Unit Permits (to 26 units for the entire state), the value of the CCI would likely have been 67, matching its values for last month and one year ago.

 

Yet even if that change had occurred, the CCI still would have failed to improve relative to its year-earlier value for a seventh consecutive month and eighth time in the last nine months. Clearly, these “misses” are not all, nor mostly, attributable to the weather over the past several months, so some slowing of our state’s overall cyclical momentum is continuing. The upside to this, if there is one, is that payroll employment has been rising substantially more than we were led to believe with the data prior to the most recent rebenchmarking, and we just received word that December’s employment number will be revised even higher. I guess this is Rhode Island’s version of life in the fast lane!

 

For February, two of the CCI’s five leading indicators improved, while two failed to improve, and the fifth was highly weather distorted. Looking first at those that failed to improve, Employment Service Jobs, which includes temporary employment and is a prerequisite to employment growth, fell by 1.3 percent in February, its third consecutive decline. However, based on the recent contradictory rebenchmarking changes to this indicator, the only thing I feel confident in concluding is that this indicator either increased, decreased, or remained unchanged in February. The other leading indicator that failed to improve, New Claims for Unemployment Insurance, is the timeliest measure of layoffs. For February, it rose by 11.5 percent compared to a year ago, its second failure to improve since last August. The downtrend in this indictor since July of 2013 may well have ended, which would be particularly bad news for our state. Finally, Single-Unit Permits, which was highly distorted by the weather, fell by 57.1 percent relative to a year ago. In spite of this, Rhode Island is continuing to move beyond its cyclical trough in new home construction.

 

CCI Indicators - % Change
Government Employment 0.0  
US Consumer Sentiment 5.2 Y
Single-Unit Permits  -57.1  
Retail Sales 5.3 Y
Employment Services Jobs -1.3  
Priv. Serv-Prod Employment
1.8
Y
Total Manufacturing Hours 3.0 Y
Manufacturing Wage 0.1 Y
Labor Force -1.2  
Benefit Exhaustions -23.7 Y
New Claims 11.5  
Unemployment Rate (change) -0.5 Y
Y = Improved Value

 

US Consumer Sentiment rose by 5.2 percent in February, its third increase following three consecutive months of declines. The final leading indicator, Total Manufacturing Hours, which measures strength in our manufacturing sector, resumed strong growth in February (+3.0%), boosted by increases in both the workweek and employment.

 

Retail Sales turned in a very strong performance in February, rising by 5.3 percent relative to a year ago. Keep in mind this indicator excludes clothing sales, which likely grew substantially in light of February’s very cold weather. Private Service-Producing Employment, which was revised higher in the recent rebenchmarking, is displaying fairly strong growth. For February, it rose by 1.8 percent relative to last February. The performance of our state’s Labor Force continued as it has for a while now - rates of decline continue to exceed one percent. February was its tenth consecutive decrease. Even with these declines, Rhode Island once again claimed the #1 jobless slot in February, as our Unemployment Rate was 9%. Let me confess that I am skeptical of these revised unemployment numbers in light of the improving performance of payroll employment. More on this next month. Finally, Government Employment was unchanged in February at just under 60,000.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

The present recovery continues to be less broadly based than it was a year ago, based on the fact that the CCI has now failed to exceed its year-earlier value for seven consecutive months. There are areas of strength, however, and payroll employment is growing faster than we had thought (although we remain 4.6% below our prior peak). A number of persons say we need to make drastic changes now, then propose ill-conceived solutions presupposing sales tax changes as “the solution.” Rhode Island needs intelligent and well thought out investment-oriented solutions that are based on thorough due diligence. We need to stop “flying blind,” that’s what got us here!

 

  

Monthly CCI Values (red = recession)
(Note: These are revised values. Original reports sometimes specify different CCI values, based on originally released data.

Jan   Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1983 42   58 58 67 75 83 83 75 83 83 83 92
1984 100   92 100 100 100 100 100 92 100 92 92 83
1985 67   75 75 75 67 75 67 50 50 58 83 67
1986 75   83 100 92 92 83 92 92 92 92 92 67
1987 67   67 58 58 67 75 75 75 75 67 75 75
1988 83   83 75 67 67 67 58 50 67 58 50 58
1989 67   50 50 33 58 33 25 25 25 33 33 33
1990 25   25 25 25 17 17 17 17 33 17 25 25
1991 25   17 17 8 25 17 25 25 25 33 17 17
1992 42   42 58 75 75 83 75 67 67 83 83 92
1993 75   83 67 67 83 67 75 75 75 58 42 58
1994 58   67 67 58 58 75 67 67 67 67 83 75
1995 58   58 58 67 50 42 42 42 58 33 67 42
1996 50   42 75 75 67 75 75 67 75 92 83 92
1997 100   92 83 75 67 75 75 75 83 75 92 83
1998 83   75 75 75 75

75

75 67 58 75

75

50

1999 83   75 75 83 67 83 75 75 92 75 83 58
2000 83   83 83 67 42 50 58 50 58 67 67 67
2001 42 33 25 17 33 50 25 33 33 42 33 42
2002 58   75 67 58 42 33 50 50 58 67 67 50
2003 50   50 50 58 58 58 83 67 83 75 92 67
2004 67   67 58 67 58 58 67 67 67 58 50 67
2005 50   67 50 50 42 75 58 67 42 58 58 67
2006 58   58 67 58 33 50 33 58 75 83 58 67
2007 50   50 33 33 58 50 33 33 17 17 8 25
2008 8 8 8 17 8 0 8 0 8 0 8 8
2009 17 8 0 8 17 33 17 42 33 42 50 33
2010 42   58 67 67 75 75 83 83 67 67 75 83
2011 50 67 67 58 50 58 58 42 50 50 58 50
2012 58   50 58/75 50/75 58/67 67/75 50/58 67/75 50/58 75/83 75/83 92
2013 75   67 83 67 83 75 75 67

75

75 67 75
2014 75   58                    

You can download monthly reports in PDF format starting
with January 1999 by clicking on the monthly index value.
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Historical Annual CCI Values

1980
1981
1982
1983
1984
1985
1986
1987
1988
1989
42
54
33
74
96
67
88
69
65
39
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998

1999

22
21
70
69
67
51
72
81
72
77
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
65
39
56
66
63
57
54
40
7
24
2010 2011 2012 2013            
70 55 74 76            

 

Annual CCI Values

Copyright © 2008,2009, 2010Leonard Lardaro, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

 

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