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U.S. Senate votes to study job loss in N.E.:

By:  Ted Nesi
Providence Business News

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to have Congress' investigative arm conduct an extensive study of why New England and the Midwest have lost jobs over the past 20 years and how to boost employment in the regions.

The Government Accountability Office report would lay out the pattern of job losses over the past two decades; the impact the offshoring of manufacturing jobs has had; and recommendations for attracting new jobs and industries to the area.

Senators adopted the amendment, which was authored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., by unanimous consent as part of a $150 billion catch-all bill to extend unemployment and COBRA benefits, tax breaks and other programs. Senators voted Tuesday to move to a final vote on the bill.

"New England states, and Rhode Island in particular, have suffered especially hard during the current economic downturn, and this report will provide a fuller understanding of how to revitalize the region," Whitehouse said in a statement. "The results of this study will help us in our effort to bring new jobs to Rhode Island."

Rhode Island's unemployment rate in January was 12.7 percent, third-highest in the nation behind only Michigan (14.3 percent) and Nevada (13 percent), according to the U.S. Labor Department. The national jobless rate was 9.7 percent in February.

If the House assents to the bill, the GAO will publish the report within six months of President Barack Obama signing it into law. The White House has said it supports the overall legislation.

The employment study proposal was co-sponsored by a group of Whitehouse's fellow New Englanders: Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., John Kerry, D-Mass., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Joseph I. Lieberman, a Conn. independent, Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.