Metro

U. bucks unemployment trend

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011

Although Rhode Island’s unemployment rate of 11.5 percent has remained the fifth highest in the country for the past 22 months, Brown has been able to keep its employment rate relatively stable.

Brown, one of the state’s top 10 largest employers, is a “significant economic engine,” said Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs and university relations.

Last year, Brown had to cut a total of 200 positions using early retirement options, layoffs and job reconfiguration.

But Quinn said Brown has been able to keep employees on the payroll because of careful project reviews. For example, the University had initially considered constructing a new medical education building but instead decided to renovate existing facilities, cutting the expected cost in half.

Quinn said Brown has been working in collaboration with Building Futures — a program that helps train economically disadvantaged adults in Providence in the construction trade — on its building projects. “We understand and appreciate the role we play in overall employment,” Quinn said.

Dining Services has also adjusted in response to the economic downturn, wrote Ann Hoffman, director of administration for Dining Services, in an e-mail to The Herald. According to Hoffman, the job losses from last year had a “small impact” on the number of Dining Services employees.

But Hoffman said the division has implemented various changes as a preventative measure. Last summer, Dining Services reduced the number of open hours at the Gate and transferred the Gate union employees to other eateries — notably Josiah’s, where they replaced a number of Johnson and Wales University student staff. “We’ve completed that transition now,” Hoffman added.

Student employment in University-posted positions has “remained steady,” Quinn said, though she added that applications for many jobs have increased. Quinn said this increase offers an insight into the economic situation of students.

Despite the high unemployment rate in the state, Thayer Street shops have not reported any significant downturn in student purchases. A salesperson at Berk’s Shoes and Clothing Store said its business remained “even with last year,” but that she had noticed more students using parents’ money instead of their own.

A salesperson at Details also said she had not noticed fewer student appearances at the store. The economic downturn is “hurting everyone in some way or another,” she said, but added that the unemployment rate has not affected too many people’s shopping habits.

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