CEI for Q1 2020, April Jobs Numbers Show Sharp Decline, Uneven Impact of Pandemic on RI Industries

PROVIDENCE, RI – Today, the Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council jointly released the Rhode Island Current Economic Indicator (CEI) Briefing for the first quarter of 2020.

“The industry breakdown of employment losses speaks to the fact that Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment levels in the country,” said RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase.  “As a state, we are particularly reliant on leisure and hospitality, education, and health care, all sectors that are among the most affected by the current crisis,” he said. DiBiase continued, “While the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the Ocean State’s economy, Rhode Island’s economic vulnerabilities are not new,” and “despite strong economic performance in the last quarter of 2019, the CEI Briefing for Q4 alluded to the fact that the state’s persistent economic growth gap is compounded by an overreliance on low-wage industries.”

While the CEI Briefing usually presents only quarterly data, because the effects of the pandemic on Q1 economic activity were limited, this issue includes the most recent monthly estimate for April in reporting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across industry sectors in the Ocean State. 

Even though the pandemic’s economic consequences did not hit Rhode Island until the last two weeks in March, Rhode Island’s GDP still contracted 4.3 percent. Rhode Island took a far larger economic hit in April over March results; 97,200 nonfarm jobs were lost between January and April, and 88,800 jobs were shed in April alone. Contrasting significantly to the strong performance of the job market in the second half of 2019 and the first two months of 2020, total employment declined 17.8 percent between March and April. 

Employment declined across all industry sectors between March and April, but by far the most affected sector was leisure and hospitality, which saw employment decrease by 61.9 percent (from 56,500 employed individuals to 21,500). Other hard-hit sectors include trade, transportation, and utilities services, health care, professional and business services, construction, and education. Comparatively, April 2020 job losses were minimal in manufacturing, financial activities, government, and wholesale trade. 

The quarterly CEI, developed by economists at The Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University, combines several key gauges of economic activity in a single statistic that measures the overall current economic conditions in Rhode Island. It is calibrated to grow at the rate of the Real Gross State Product and, therefore, can be interpreted as the underlying growth rate of the state economy. The CEI is calculated using the most current available data for the state.

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