fb-pixel Skip to main content

Just how bad is R.I.’s unemployment rate? Pretty horrible.

Economists say reopening restaurants such as O'Rourke's Bar & Grill in Warwick will help the state emerge from recession.Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

If you have friends or relatives who would like their own free copy of this daily briefing about Rhode Island, tell them they can sign up here.


Happy Tuesday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. Dan McGowan’s on staycation this week. I’m Edward Fitzpatrick and you won’t see me at Scarborough in Phase 1, 2, or 3 because I can get sunburned from a small appliance bulb. Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to Edward.Fitzpatrick@globe.com.

ICYMI: The Rhode Island Department of Health did not update coronavirus data on Memorial Day. But on Sunday, the state was up to 14,065 confirmed COVID-19 cases, after adding 116 new cases. The state announced 11 more deaths, bringing the total to 608. There were 240 people in the hospital, 49 in intensive care, and 32 were on ventilators.

Last week, we learned that Rhode Island’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 17 percent in April — up from 4.7 percent just a month earlier and up from 3.6 percent one year ago. Governor Gina M. Raimondo called the 17 percent figure “horrible” and “devastating.”


Just how horrible and devastating? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only three states had a higher unemployment rates in April: Nevada at 28.2 percent, Michigan at 22.7 percent, and Hawaii at 22.3 percent.

"Hawaii and Nevada are in the same bucket as we are — highly dependent on leisure and hospitality,” Bryant University economics Professor Edinaldo Tebaldi said. “So it’s not a surprise we are among the hardest hit.”

Elsewhere in New England, the unemployment rates stood at 16.3 percent in New Hampshire, 15.6 percent in Vermont, 15.1 percent in Massachusetts, 10.6 percent in Maine, and 7.9 percent in Connecticut (a rate Tebaldi thinks is actually higher).


The question now is whether Rhode Island can find a way to break the pattern of being among the first states in and last states out of recession, Tebaldi said.

Rhode Island will get a boost as restaurants and other hospitality businesses reopen, he said. But he noted the state has not seen an unemployment rate this high since the Department of Labor and Training began tracking the data in 1976. The previous high on record was 11.3 percent in 2010.

"It’s depressing,” Tebaldi said. While it’s too soon to qualify as a depression, he said, “It is certainly a recession — a severe recession.”

And it’s bound to have a profound impact on public finances, Tebaldi said.

To analyze those consequences, Bryant University and the Rhode Island Foundation are holding a Zoom panel discussion at 10 a.m. Wednesday titled “COVID-19 and Public Finances in Rhode Island.”

The panel includes Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Economist and Vice President Jeffrey P. Thompson, Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council President and CEO Michael DiBiase, state Office of Revenue Analysis chief Paul L. Dion, and Bryant University Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership Director Gary S. Sasse. Bryant President Ronald K. Machtley will host, and Capitol TV’s Margie O’Brien Reed will moderate.


Rhode Map wants to hear from you. If you've got a scoop or a link to an interesting news story in Rhode Island, e-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ Rhode Islanders put a toe in the water on Monday as the state reopened the Scarborough and East Matunuck state beaches, and Amanda Milkovits was there to observe the roaring surf and the social distancing.


⚓ I wrote about how Memorial Day would normally bring the Foley family to the Berkshires to say a graveside prayer, to barbecue and canoe, but the virus is vanquishing many traditions, making prayers more urgent.

⚓ The Wyatt Detention Facility, in Central Falls, has become a hot spot within a hot spot, with 46 detainees and 12 staff members testing positive for COVID-19, and now a federal judge has provisionally certified a class of 70 immigration detainees in a class-action suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union seeking their conditional release.

George F. Will wrote a Washington Post column Friday describing Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo as “the vice president who would restore adult supervision in Washington.”

⚓ Also, the Post’s Ranking Committee placed Raimondo at No. 10 on its latest list of potential vice presidents for Democrat Joe Biden. (Senator Kamala Harris tops the list). So has Biden’s team been vetting Raimondo as it has other potential running mates? “Not that I’m aware of,” Raimondo spokesman Josh Block said.

⚓ The Globe’s Jim Hoban offers some takeaways from The Match at Medalist Golf Club involving Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson, including this observation: “Brady looked like a weekend hacker through six holes.”



Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what's happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ Governor Raimondo’s daily coronavirus update is at 11 a.m. rather than the usual 1 p.m. time slot.

⚓ The state Senate Judiciary Committee will meet at 4 p.m. to take up the appointment of Lara Montecalvo as the public defender, the appointment of East Providence Police Chief William Nebus to the State Traffic Commission, and the appointments of Christopher H. Little and Jonathan C. Roberts to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.

⚓ Lieutenant Governor Daniel J. McKee and his team are hosting a COVID-19 virtual town hall meeting at noon for Rhode Island’s small business community.

⚓ Do you ️♥ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

Please tell your friends about Rhode Map! They can sign up here. The Globe has other e-mail newsletters on topics ranging from breaking news alerts to sports, politics, business, and entertainment — check them out.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.