Jobs picture in Fall River going from bad to worse

The news that Silver Line Building Products is closing its Fall River plant is a body blow to a region already suffering from the worst employment picture in the state. The New Jersey-based company, which manufactures vinyl doors and windows, opened its Fall River facility to great fanfare in 2001.The company announced last week that the downturn in the housing and construction sector is forcing it to shutter the Fall River plant and lay off close to 300 workers.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

Just how bad have things gotten in Southeastern Massachusetts? Three years ago CommonWealth spotlighted the challenges facing the two big South Coast cities, Fall River and New Bedford, which always seem to lag behind the statewide economy, whether we're in good times or in bad. Unemployment then was just over 7 percent in both cities, but that was 50 percent higher than the statewide average. Today, Fall River's unemployment rate stands at 13.9 percent, highest in the state after Lawrence's 16.6 percent. (New Bedford's unemployment rate is 12.9 percent; the statewide rate is 8.0 percent.) 

Among the bright spots highlighted in our 2006 story were the arrival in Fall River of a few high-end firms, such as biotech's Avant Immunotherapeutics and Meditech, a medical software company. But local officials were also quick to point to recent success at replacing jobs lost in the region's shrinking textile industry with new opportunities for those without higher-education credentials.

"We still have a population of incumbent workers in their mid-40s, without a lot of educational attainment, who still need 20 years to work someplace," said then-Fall River mayor Ed Lambert. Silver Line was touted as one of the new arrivals, where displaced textile workers had found employment refuge.