RI unemployment rate still climbing

There's a grim picture painted Friday of Rhode Island's job market. Once again, unemployment numbers are bucking the national trend. The jobless rate is nearly three points higher than the national average and four and a half points higher than Massachusetts.

If you think things are bad now, experts are saying it could get a lot worse. The unemployment numbers, out Friday by the Department of Labor and Training, don't look good. They're slightly up from last month, and they're contributing to the state's already tainted image in the national spotlight.

This is Cyril Murray's seventh month looking for a job. He got laid off in September from “Bank of America” with no warning.

“I was devastated,” said Cyril, “You know, coming off of vacation and expecting to get back to work and back to the flow and then being told you're laid off. It's like what do I do? What's my next step.”

Cyril's taking it in stride, though, by going back to college and scouring the web at “Network Rhode Island” looking for any steady employment. His frustration is there aren't many good paying jobs here.

“You give your best effort, but sometimes your best effort goes by the wayside,” said Cyril, “It's not that employers don't want you, they're just very specific in what they're looking for.”

Economist and URI Professor Leonard Lardaro said Cyril's a victim of Rhode Island's consistently high unemployment rate, which, right now, is three percent higher than the national average.

“We have among the highest unemployment rates in the country,” said Lardaro, “For February, we were number two behind Nevada.”

And it's only going to get worse, because Lardaro said Rhode Island's image is down the tubes.

“Image matters,” he said, “Especially for a state like Rhode Island, where tourism is a very critical part of what we do, so image is everything and we're losing that battle when we're known for our beaches and our unemployment rate.”

Not to mention, our capital city is on the brink of bankruptcy, and Central Falls is already bankrupt.    

Lardaro said our unemployment rate will likely go up even more, because businesses don't want to come here. And valuable employees like Cyril will leave the state.

“You know, there isn't much stability in Rhode Island,” said Cyril, “And at any time your job could be in jeopardy.”

This is all just a few days before Providence Mayor Taveras delivers his budget address, Monday night. He'll certainly touch on the progress he's made with the city's financial problems. The city is, after all, set to run out of money by the end of June.