RI's jobless rate edges down, still 2nd highest

Providence, R.I. (AP) — Unemployment in Rhode Island edged down slightly in July, but the state continues to shed jobs and post the country's second-highest jobless rate, according to new data released Friday.

The state Department of Labor and Training reported that the jobless rate was 10.8 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from June. Only Nevada has a higher rate, 12 percent, new U.S. Labor Department statistics show.

California was the only other state with double-digit unemployment, with a rate of 10.7 percent.

The number of employed residents in Rhode Island fell by 100 from June, to 494,900. That's 4,000 fewer employed residents than a year ago. The size of the state's labor force was also down by 400 from June, to 554,800. That's a decrease of 8,400 from a year ago.

The state said the loss of 1,200 jobs — the majority in the health care and social assistance sector — leaves it with the lowest number of positions since April 1998.

Len Lardaro, an economist at the University of Rhode Island, said he expects that jobs figure will be revised upward. He maintains that the state's economy is in better shape than official statistics show.

His June "Current Conditions Index" said the state continues to be in what he called a tepid recovery that began more than two years ago in February 2010 — though the pace of that recovery has slowed.

"If the U.S. economy re-accelerates, that's going to help us," Lardaro said.

He said Rhode Island's problems are structural, not cyclical, meaning the state is largely at the mercy of national and global economic trends.

"That's not where you want to be," he added.

The national unemployment rate in July was 8.3 percent.

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