In the face of a rapidly evolving economy, Rhode Island’s
education and workforce systems need to keep pace, to meet the dual needs of
workers (who need to remain employable), and employers (who need skilled
workers to produce the goods and provide the services demanded by consumers). Our
latest State of Working Rhode Island 2017: Paving the Way for Good Jobs report
shows that throughout Rhode Island’s economic recovery, workers of color
continue to be left behind.
We see striking disparities in unemployment rates based on
race and ethnicity. These disparities persist both in good times and bad, with
Black and Latino unemployment rates consistently double or more the White
unemployment rate. The impact that these disparities have on Rhode Island as a
state are magnified in our cities, where our communities of color are
Looking at 2016 unemployment
rates in seven Rhode Island cities, including those with large populations of
people of color, we see that they collectively account for more than half (52
percent) of the 29,400 unemployed workers in Rhode Island, with unemployment
rates ranging from 4.5 percent in Warwick to 7.3 percent in Providence. These
seven cities are home to 79 percent of Rhode Island’s Black community, and 86
percent of Rhode Island’s Latino community.
We also know that within many of these cities, there are also
divides, both by race and ethnicity and by geography, with some areas faring
much worse than others. For example, during the 5 year period from 2011-2015,
the unemployment rate for the east side of Providence was less than half the
rate for the rest of the city (7.8 percent vs 17.0 percent), which was home to
58 percent of the Black community, and 72 percent of Providence’s Latino
Ensuring that all Rhode Islanders have access to the
education and training needed to thrive in the economy of today and tomorrow
requires us to consciously remove barriers to success, including financial
barriers, barriers based on race and ethnicity, and barriers resulting from a
lack of English language skills.
For the full report, executive summary, and policy
recommendations visit www.economicprogressri.org/stateofworkingri2017.