What Are The Biggest Industries In Rhode Island?

Tourism industry in Rhode Island is quite well developed.
Tourism industry in Rhode Island is quite well developed.

Rhode Island is the smallest American state by area, which occupies an area of about 1,214sq miles. It is the second-most densely populated American state and the seventh least populous. Rhode Island is situated in the New England region, and it is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean (through Block Island Sound and Rhode Island Sound), Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Rhode Island has a maritime boundary with New York. The most populous and capital city of this state is Providence. The Rhode Island colony was the first of the 13 Colonies to renounce its allegiance with the United Kingdom on May 4, 1776. It was the fourth of the first American states to ratify the Articles-of-Confederation and the last to ratify the U.S. Constitution. The state’s official nickname is the Ocean-State.

The Economy Of Rhode Island

The fishing industry was the main contributor to Rhode Island’s economy during the colonial era. The introduction of Slater Mill by Samuel Slater in 1793 helped the state to transition into an industrial economy. The Ocean state was the leader in textiles; however, most textile firms relocated to the southern parts of the country during the Great Depression. Other crucial historical industries in this state are silverware, costume jewelry, and tool making. One of the most critical outcomes of Rhode Island’s industrial era is several abandoned factories that are currently used for elderly and low-income housing, offices, museums, and condominiums.

Rhode Island experienced a tough transition during the twentieth century from a heavily industrialized state to a service economy. The process of deindustrialization, which began in the early twentieth century, occurred steadily. Currently, its economy is based on tourism, education, business services, health services, and the government. Rhode Island was the forty-fifth wealthiest American with a GDP of $46.18billion in 2000. Rhode Island’s 2018 GDP was $61.341billion, and it ranked forty-sixth in the country. The unemployment rate of the Ocean State was 3.5% in November 2019, representing the 19,585 unemployed people. Rhode Island is home to numerous Fortune-1000 companies (Amica Mutual Insurance, American Power Conversion, FM Global, and Nortek) and Fortune-500 firms (Textron and CVS Caremark).

The Biggest Industries In Rhode Island


Agriculture has been on the decline in the state since the end of the eighteenth century, and currently, the size of cultivated land in Rhode Island in negligible. In terms of generated revenue, the state’s leading agricultural products are calves and cattle, potatoes, dairy products, sweet corn, and nursery and greenhouse products. The third-ranking agricultural commodity in Rhode Island is Milk. Dairy products account for about 5% of Ocean State’s agricultural income. Even though Rhode Island is not the leading egg producer in the country, the official state bird is the Rhode-Island-Red chicken. Other animals reared in Rhode Island include hogs and beef cattle. Turf farming and nursery products account for a considerable percentage of Rhode Island’s agricultural output.


Rhode Island’s economy was based on fishing during the colonial era. Narragansett Bay has been the source of income for the community since the first settlement was established in the region. Narragansett Bay has been a playground for vacationers and visitors since the early 1700s. The shore of this state was referred to as New England’s Playground because it had several amusement parks, beaches, and resorts. Pollution, human waste, and industrialization affected the fishing industry.

Efforts to clean-up Narragansett Bay after the fish population reduced started in the 1970s. The cleaning efforts helped improve the health of the bay resulting in an increase in the number of quahogs, oysters, and lobsters by the 1990s. Overfishing in the ocean resulted in the reduction of the population of the preferred commercial species like mackerel, cod, striped bass, and flounders during the 1970s and 1980s. The reduction of the population of these species forced the government to impose a legal limitation on commercial catches, which affected the fishing sector of Rhode Island.


After the American Revolution, Rhode Island became a pioneering manufacturing state, particularly in textiles. Some of the products manufactured in this state include textiles, electrical equipment, silverware, fabricated materials, transportation equipment, and jewelry. As the state was transforming from an industrial to a service economy in the twentieth century, the number of employees in the manufacturing sector reduced from over three-fifth of the population to one-sixth. The decline in the textile sector also affected the other firms that are associated with textiles. The Ocean State went through an economic depression, which affected all industries except jewelry making, from the 1920s to the 1950s. The Ocean State has been known as the world’s jewelry capital for a very long time. Rhode Island was the leading producer of costume jewelry in the country until the late twentieth century when global competition forced the industry to decline sharply.


Tourism is the second biggest sector in the service industry that provides over 50,000 jobs and earns the state over $5.75billion annually. Rhode Island is one of the top tourist destinations in the country. The Ocean State has a 400miles long shoreline and several historical and cultural attractions. The Ocean State was known as New England’s playground during the nineteenth century since it had some of the most beautiful amusement parks, beaches, and resorts in the region. Some of the top-rated attractions in this state include the Breakers, cliff walk in Newport, the Benefit Street in Providence, and Herreshoff Marine Museum, among others. Benefit Street was a civic, artistic, cultural, social, and intellectual center of Providence during the early federal and colonial eras. Currently, Benefit Street is the most popular street in this state.

Service Industry

The leading resources of this state have been its citizens since the colonial period, which made it easy for its economy to transform from manufacturing to the service-based economy. The health service had become the biggest private employer in the Ocean States by the 1990s. Providence is a crucial financial center in New England and home to some of the largest insurance companies and banks. The headquarter Citizens Financial Group, the fourteenth biggest American bank, is situated in Providence.


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