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Rhode Island’s Most Unemployed Cities & Towns

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


While the statewide jobless rate dipped to 10.7 percent last month, one in four Rhode Island municipalities still reported at least 11 percent unemployment, according to data from the Department of Labor and Training.

The highest unemployment rates come from many of the cash-strapped urban communities (Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket are all above 12 percent), but rural parts of the state haven’t been spared by an economy that University of Rhode Island economist Dr. Leonard Lardaro describes as shifting “into a lower gear” (Charlestown, Burrillville and Scituate are all at least 11 percent).

“The most critical question going forward is whether monetary policy will be able to re-accelerate the US and world economies,” Lardaro wrote in the September edition of his monthly Current Conditions Index, which analyzes the state’s economy. “Even if they do, how much will Rhode Island benefit given its non-competitive tax and cost structure? This would be a very appropriate time.”

Lardaro’s comments came ahead of a Rhode Island Public Expenditure Counsel (RIPEC) report that recommended revamping the state’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to help stimulate the state’s economy and avert 38 Studios-like problems moving forward. The suggestions included rebranding the quasi-public agency, creating a cabinet-level Secretary of Commerce and appointing a nine member council comprised of business and government leaders to advise the agency.

Bridges to Nowhere

But others say the state’s flaws when it comes to turning around the economy run much deeper. In an e-mail sent Sunday evening, the Ocean State Tea Party in Action (OSTPA) described too many of the state’s investments as “bridges to nowhere” and argued that the state desperately needs to address business regulation, taxes, and education in order to truly improve on an unemployment rate that is still second worst in the nation.

The e-mail outlined a three-phase plan that would include asking business leaders to draw up a plan for addressing the state’s most pressing issues and pushing lawmakers to focus on tackling a range of issues from public assistance and illegal immigration to public employee union costs across the state.

“The current practice that ignores the fact that the cost of RI government is too high, our education system too weak, and our regulatory system out of control has not worked,” the Tea Party’s e-mail stated. “Putting lipstick on the pig has only cost Rhode Islanders more.”

Some Improvement

Still, while the state has lagged behind much of the country when it comes to job creation (the nationwide unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent in September), municipalities have seen their jobless numbers drop significantly in recent months.

Since 2008, only three communities (Narragansett, Barrington and Richmond never saw their unemployment rates rise above ten percent, while 14 communities saw at least 14 percent of their workforce without work at some point over the last four years.

“It is encouraging that the state's unemployment rate has gone down by almost three-quarters of a percent from August 2011 through August 2012 while the nation's unemployment rate headed downward by one percent during the same time period,” University of Rhode Island business professor Dr. Edward Mazze said last month.

But Mazze was quick to point out that when the number of workers who have given up looking for work, are underemployed or have permanent jobs are figured in, almost 30 percent of the state’s workforce could still be struggling.

“In August, most of the new jobs added were in the hospitality industry, health care and assistance and educational services,” Mazze said. “These are three sectors of the economy dependent on seasonality and demand for services. When it comes to the current job numbers, the best we can say is that Rhode Island is in neutral and can go in any direction. Thankfully, it moved in a positive direction for August.”

Lawmakers Consider Options

On Smith Hill, lawmakers say they’ll attempt to make economic development a top priority during the 2013 legislative session. While the RIPEC report is one of the options the state is considering, the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Economic Development also heard a plan last week that would include eliminating the EDC altogether.

That plan, titled “Rebooting the Economic Development System in Rhode Island,” was put together by Scott A. Gibbs and Marcel A. Valois, president and vice president, respectively, of the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island, and Gary S. Sasse, director of the Bryant (University) Institute for Public Leadership and former director of both the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and Department of Administration.

The three authors suggest vesting the current EDC responsibilities in three new bodies: a strategic office that answers to the governor, a research body based in the state’s universities and a new board of directors that would collaborate with the private sector and administer programs.

“We are very much interested in hearing from anyone who has looked at the issues and has some suggestions to make,” Representative Donna Walsh (Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), who co-chairs the committee. “Economic development is no simple formula, and we need to hear everyone’s ideas in order to make informed decisions about what our state government should be doing to rebuild our economy and encourage prosperity.”

Another committee co-chair, Senator James Sheehan (Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown), made it clear that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to turning the state around, but stressed that collaboration is crucial.

“We need collaboration between our state’s brightest thinkers, people who have experienced the hurdles facing small and large businesses, and people who’ve worked in economic development efforts who know what helps and what doesn’t,” he said. We’re looking forward to considering all the plans that come forward.”


Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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The Democrats have no plan to fix our state. In fact, last week J. Patrick O’Neill resigned as House Majority Whip. His own words say it all! “Unfortunately, there are glaring signs that the leadership team is neither working together to bring about true change nor has a clear plan for addressing the issues this state is facing," said O'Neill.

Rhode Island has been ranked last for business 2 years in a row and the Democrats have done nothing. The cities/towns that have high unemployment are areas where the Democrats rule. There is not one Republican in office in Providence. The Democrats control 90% of our General Assembly as well. They deserve all of the credit for the fact that Rhode Island is ranked last.

Earlier this year House Republicans launched a "Pro-Growth and Government Reform Plan" and the Democrats made sure it never saw the light of day.

It is time to put some new players on the field. Rhode Islanders are feeling the pain of the absolute power of the Democrat Party in Rhode Island every day and the cronyism that comes with it. Ranking #2 for unemployment is a result of it. In fact RI ranks at or near the bottom in most key categories. Have you had enough yet?

Comment #1 by Michael Napolitano on 2012 10 09

"On Smith Hill, lawmakers say they’ll attempt to make economic development a top priority during the 2013 legislative"

"Attempt to make it a priority." That pretty much says it all. ATTEMPT

Comment #2 by Chris MacWilliams on 2012 10 09

Sheehan is your typical politician who basically says we haven't done anything but when someone comes up with an idea we'll think about it. I can't imagine anyone more useless.

Comment #3 by David Conroy on 2012 10 09

Sheehan is your typical politician who basically says we haven't done anything but when someone comes up with an idea we'll think about it. I can't imagine anyone more useless.

Comment #4 by David Conroy on 2012 10 09

Looks like Conroy is your typical bigoted writer who basically criticizes one GA member out of all of them. I can't think of anyone less credible than this commentator. And he has to write the same comment twice? I guess he thinks readers here are not intelligent enough to get it the first time! Instead of criticizing one person why not be christian and come up with viable ideas to help RI? Vilifying people seems to be the norm for this state. Perhaps if people worked together instead of insulting one another, some good ideas can form.....

Comment #5 by ella mentry on 2012 10 09

Lets be real for minute. Democrats are totally and solely responsible for the crummy economic condition of Rhode Island. If you don't realize that, you're either one of them, or just arrived from Mars.

Comment #6 by David Beagle on 2012 10 09

I believe that if we all put our personal party affiliations aside for one moment and looked at what has happened in RI for the past 35-75 years, it will be impossible to NOT draw the conclusion that whomever is at the helm of the ship, is responsible for running it into the rocks.

Now, party affiliation back, as a member of the 7 man Republican Minority in the House of Representatives, we worked very hard between the 2011-2012 sessions to put together a 19-bill package of legislation that was entitled "the Republican Pro-Growth Legislative Agenda". It wasn't based in feelings, emotions, or which special interest is contributing the most to our campaigns; it was based on all the data that have come from legitimate, non-partisan studies and reports that are available to everyone, including the public. We took all the factors that are negatively impacting the cost of living, and business climate in our state, compared it to states of similar size, demographics and locations, and we took the best practices of those states that are succeed in all of the areas we addressed with our legislation, and we drew up bills that would start to guide RI toward the paths that our sister states have taken in order to be more successful in these areas.

This is the type of deliberate, thoughtful and very logically based approach to "fixing" things in RI that you never see from the Democrats that have controlled RI for 70+ years.

A definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Please RI - let's stop the insanity. Don't buy into the time-tested scare tactics of the Democrat party - they aren't true, and believing them and voting for the same career politicians has destroyed our state, and our nation. We need to come back with strength, and prosperity.

Comment #7 by Michael Chippendale on 2012 10 09

I guess the answer is a move to Block Island!
What a sad situation, made more painful when you drive north into MA and take note of the number of office complexes with full parking lots and the amount of new commerical and residential construction. RI is the hopeless state

Comment #8 by Rufus Mikatis on 2012 10 09

when cicilline was mayor the unemployment in Prov. was over 14 percent!

Comment #9 by anthony sionni on 2012 10 09

Stop with the let's see what we can do from experts in or connected with RI government.
There are plenty of clear winners in the business of growing sustainable companies. They all are going to other states. We just need a vision, a leader and a responsible independent thinking person to show all of our non-business producing GA members how to do it right.

Comment #10 by Gary Arnold on 2012 10 09

Get a job already. www.RIJobFinder.com

Comment #11 by Captain Blacksocks on 2012 10 09

Travel to other states around us, Massachusetts is working. Many Rhode Islanders are finding work there. Here in Rhode Island the GA think that if we have more gaming at Twin River it will solve all our fianancial problems. Once again RI putting their eggs in one basket. A total loser package.

Comment #12 by Joyce Bryant on 2012 10 09

"Instead of criticizing one person why not be christian and come up with viable ideas to help RI? Vilifying people seems to be the norm for this state. Perhaps if people worked together instead of insulting one another, some good ideas can form..." (ella mentary)

I love this comment, I amazed that everyone is upset with the whole situation, but if y'all just sit around and "bitch" about "all them xxxholes in office" and you never offer a solution to them that you, the taxpayer, believe in... Same thing... same results...!
Why do you expect your elected people to read your minds? Write to them and let them know exactly what it is like to live as a RI resident and what you think will assist. Suggestions are always welcome with any leader.

Comment #13 by Tricia Erin on 2012 10 09

Hey ella mentry. here's a clue don't vote democrat.

Comment #14 by David Conroy on 2012 10 09

Well, maybe once we have Romney as our president, he won’t continue to extend unemployment benefits. That will mean that people will actually have to start LOOKING for work, instead of enjoy their extended vacations.

I’m sure that a similar study for welfare recipients will reveal similar results. My response would be the same, in that a republican president will cut welfare and have these people actually LOOKING for work.

This presidency has established a way of life for the lower income families, instead of trying to force them to work and become part of the middle class.

Comment #15 by pearl fanch on 2012 10 10

This legislature has been sitting on its hands for too long on the umeployment front. This state has been in double digit unemployment for almost two election cycles with hardly a change in the rate. The rate the DLT is also a joke as it is only moving in response to the people leaving the workforce.
The people of this state have been living under a one-party legislature for far too long and it is time they woke up and start removing these hacks.
This economy will not improve until the taxes come down and the budget is cut. Walsh, Sheehan and others are not capable of fixing this problem - they ARE THE PROBLEM.

Comment #16 by Gov- stench on 2012 10 11

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.