While looking at NYTimes.com’s nifty interactive map of county unemployment rates, I was struck by something. Take a look at this:
Outside of Maine, the only part of New England with double-digit unemployment is a swath of counties along the borders of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut – stretching southeast from the Springfield region through Windham County, Conn., the Providence area, and down through Bristol County, Mass., to New Bedford.
In fact, Providence County had the highest unemployment rate in all of New England in June – 12.5% – and next-door Kent County was second at 11.7%. Nowhere else did the figure top 11%.
This is not a brand-new problem – Paul Harrington of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies recently told me the Northeast has been lagging in job growth since the mid-1980s. “What you see is Southern New England, New York, New Jersey – all these states in common – where they just don’t generate a large number of jobs,” he said. “The country’s added 28 million jobs [since the ’80s]; Southern New England has basically added none.”
One source for some answers to how and why the employment crisis has gotten so bad in this region may arrive in an upcoming federal report. The Senate voted in March to have its investigative arm conduct a study of job losses in New England and Midwest over the past 20 years.