Pandemic sends state’s unemployment rate soaring to 17%

Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Director Scott Jensen. File photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic that forced the shutdown of businesses across Rhode Island sent the state’s unemployment rate soaring to 17% in April, the state Department of Labor and Training announced Thursday.

That’s up from 4.7% in March and 3.6% in April 2019.

The state shed almost 99,000 jobs from February to April, the agency said, but almost 89,000 of those losses were in April alone.

Rhode Island’s April unemployment rate was higher that the national rate of 14.7%, according to the agency.

“Today’s jobs numbers convey the immense extent of economic hardship that the COVID-19 crisis has brought upon Rhode Island workers and families,” department Director Scott Jensen said in an emailed statement.

___

NEW CASES

The state Department of Health on Thursday reported 189 new positive cases of COVID-19, and 18 more deaths.

That brings the state’s totals to nearly 13,600 cases and more than 550 fatalities.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease declined slightly to 254, according to the latest figures.

___

OSCAR WINNER HELPS OUT

Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis partnered with the Frontline Foods nonprofit to sponsor 100 meals for staff at two Rhode Island hospitals.

Davis, who grew up in Central Falls, was joined by members of the cast of “How to Get Away With Murder,” which stars Davis, in sponsoring the meals Wednesday for workers at Hasbro Children’s and Rhode Island hospitals, The Providence Journal reported.

The meals were provided by South Kingstown’s Matunuck Oyster Bar.

Frontline Foods is a national organization that pays local restaurants through donations to prepare meals for frontline workers.

Davis and her fellow cast members were the first to sponsor a delivery from the Rhode Island chapter.

___

PROVIDENCE SCHOOLS

Layoffs, furloughs and salary freezes are possible in the Providence public schools if anticipated state and city aid increase does not come through, officials said at a school board meeting.

If the district does not receive the full funding increase, it will have to make additional reductions in order to make the necessary investments for the upcoming school year, Chief Operating Officer Zack Scott said at Wednesday’s meeting, WJAR-TV reported.