Shortage of Bus Drivers Is Just the Beginning, RI’s Job Market Is a Mess

Sunday 02 October 2022

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ORIGINAL PHOTO: National Archives

The ramifications of Rhode Island state workers’ new order will have a bigger impact than if your main course comes out cold.


Rhode Island restaurants lost 3,000 workers. The state’s hospitals collectively have thousands of jobs and are losing tens of millions every quarter, due in part to overtime costs. Overall, the state’s workforce is 8% smaller than before the pandemic.

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Construction grew 400 in August, the sector’s biggest monthly jobs gain since March.

Rhode Island has some big plans for the future. It has committed more than half a billion dollars to build affordable housing and reinvent energy infrastructure.

But Rhode Island can’t even man public transportation. It’s hard to reverse the course of climate change by forcing more people to give up public transportation and get back in their cars to get to work, school or the hospital.

We don’t have enough workers, many do not want to do certain jobs, and meeting the goals of better housing, health care and climate change simply will not be possible without a fundamental change in labor availability.

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Shortage of bus drivers is just one example

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The Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) this week announced it would be cutting key bus routes across the state due to staffing shortages.

More than 20 routes are affected.

Joe Cole, ATU vice president 618/618A, told GoLocal: “Last weekend, Friday to Sunday, 680 trips were lost. didn’t drive RIPTA’s number of passengers per trip is estimated at 9 [impacted]. This means that around 6,120 passengers remained without boarding.

“These lost trips must be registered with the FTA (Federal Transit Administration). The reduction in service should go to public meetings so the public is informed,” added Cole.

About 30 drivers are needed to restore the canceled service. Hundreds of drivers are needed to expand and improve public transport. Without a new strategy, it is difficult to achieve significant impacts on climate change.

“More than 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the tailpipes of heavy trucks and millions of passenger cars, with the rest coming from vehicles like trains and planes,” reports the LAist.

Among the existing public transportation, there is not enough service for most people, regardless of the benefits. “A single person switching from a 20-mile car-only commute to existing public transport can reduce their annual carbon emissions by £20 a day, or more than £48,000 in a year. This equates to an overall 10% reduction in greenhouse gases produced by a typical two-adult, two-car household,” says KCATA.

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Not alone, but we live in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is not alone in its labor law challenges.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston notes in a new study: “Small businesses are facing the ongoing impact of COVID-19, with fewer employees and greater problems finding applicants and retaining employees. That’s according to data collected from nearly 8,000 companies during the Federal Reserve’s annual Small Business Credit Survey. The information was analyzed for a report on recruitment and employee retention published last month.

Among the findings of the report:

43% of small employer firms had fewer employees at the time of the survey than before the pandemic began.
44% of companies in the latest survey said hiring was “very difficult,” compared to 27% in 2018.
71% of companies said it had been very or somewhat difficult to retain employees in the previous 12 months.
78% of companies reporting that hiring was difficult cited a lack of applicants as a factor in these difficulties, far more than the 40% who cited competition from other employers.

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Now recession worries are coming to PHOTO: file

Rhode Island numbers continue to be conflicting

Rhode Island has record low unemployment and tens of thousands of jobs available.

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In July, when the workforce was 89.5% recovered, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council pointed to the inconsistency of the recovery.

“While there are now 3,000 more employed Rhode Islanders than before the pandemic, we still have 9,300 fewer jobs in Rhode Island and have been slower than the U.S. to regain jobs lost during the pandemic,” said RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase.

“Despite positive trends in employment data, the state’s recovery from the pandemic remains patchy,” he added.

Small businesses are facing the ongoing impact of COVID-19, with fewer workers and greater difficulty finding and retaining employees.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, “The real estate, rental and leasing (43%) and educational services (17%) sectors have recovered less than half of the jobs lost during the shutdown, while the financial activities and management of the business sectors have yet to win back one of the jobs lost during the pandemic shutdown.”

According to modeling by independent financial research firm Ned Davis Research (NDR), there is currently a 98.1% probability of a global recession.

The NDR recession model was only this high in 2020 [COVID] and during the Great Recession.

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