In Rhode Island, manufacturing workers hit hardest by high unemployment

Gilda Paul thought she would work at a chemical manufacturing plant in Rhode Island all her life. Then, the great recession hit, leaving the 50 year old jobless.

(CBS News) - Rhode Island has the second highest unemployment rate in the country at 11.1 percent. Economists estimate the state will not regain all the jobs it lost during the recession until at least 2021.

CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano went to Rhode Island to find the folks who are still searching for work.

"There's so much unsettled right at this point, and you think, at 50, you should be settled," unemployed Rhode Island resident Gilda Paul told CBS News. "And, here I am at 50, and I'm not."

For 20 years, Paul worked at a chemical manufacturing plant in Rhode Island. She thought she was going to retire there. "We started there when we were young," she said. "This was a company you didn't leave."

The plant once employed 15,000 people.

"They closed down production. They sent it over to China and India and Mexico. So we knew that at that point it was just a matter of time that they closed us down or they would relocate us," Paul said.

She was laid off in 2010.

Over the last decade, Rhode Island has lost more than 37 percent of its manufacturing jobs, the biggest decline in the nation. Paul says she tried to find a job in her field, but wasn't able to find much.

With the help of federal grant money she's back in school training as a medical assistant. But, her new skills don't guarantee her a job. Her husband, a carpenter, is also out of work. Leaving the state they grew up in may be their best option.

"We would have to sit down and have that conversation and say 'What are we going to do?'" Paul said crying. "It breaks my heart but. I figure I'm doing whatever I can do to stay in Rhode Island. This is home. You do what you have to do."

Paul's unemployment benefits run out in September. She thinks they'll run through their savings by the end of the year.

  • Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.