Rhode Island’s Top 10 Exports

Rhode Island state flag courtesy of FlagPictures.org

Rhode Island flag

Nicknamed “The Ocean State” and “Little Rhody” located in America’s New England region within the country’s northeastern area, Rhode Island shipped US$2.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount represents a 4.2% uptick from 2017 to 2018 and a 2.3% gain since 2015.

Rhode Island is America’s 46th-biggest exporter by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of Rhode Island’s exports equals 0.2% of United States’ overall exported products for 2018.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Rhode Island’s exported products represent 4.3% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2018. The latter real dollar values were expressed in 2018 ($65.3 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).

Given Rhode Island’s population of 1.338 million people, its total $2.8 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $2,100 for every resident in the Ocean State.

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate was 3.6% at May 2019 down from 4.5% as of March 2018, per YCharts.

Rhode Island’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export products represent the highest dollar value in Rhode Island global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Rhode Island.

Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.

  1. Iron or steel scrap: US$244 million (10.2% of Rhode Island’s total exports)
  2. Miscellaneous precious metal scrap: $188 million (7.8%)
  3. Jewelry articles clad in precious metal: $164 million (6.8%)
  4. Gold scrap: $145 million (6%)
  5. Silver powder: $101 million (4.2%)
  6. Immunological products (unmixed): $96 million (4%)
  7. Jewelry articles containing silver: $66 million (2.7%)
  8. Gold compounds: $60 million (2.5%)
  9. Imitation jewelry (base metal): $42 million (1.8%)
  10. Chemical preparations for photographic purposes: $23 million (1%)

Rhode Island’s top 10 exports accounted for 47% of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.

Jewelry items clad in precious metal was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 62.4% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales was iron or steel scrap which rose 10.2%.

Rhode Island’s shipments of miscellaneous precious metal scrap posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 21.3%.

The leading decliner among Rhode Island’s top 10 export products were jewelry articles containing silver thanks to a -27.5% retreat year over year.

More Key Facts

Overall, Rhode Island incurred an -$8.1 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 16.5% year-over-year increase from -$7 billion in red ink for 2017.

Another way of saying surplus or deficit is positive or negative net exports. In a nutshell, the term “net exports” quantifies the amount by which foreign spending on a state’s goods or services exceeds or lags that same state’s spending on foreign goods or services.

Below are Rhode Island’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2018.

  1. Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $5.3 billion (50.5% of Rhode Island’s total imports)
  2. Light petroleum oils: $1.1 billion (11%)
  3. Small automobiles (piston engine): $465 million (4.4%)
  4. Large automobiles (piston engine): $381 million (3.6%)
  5. Natural gas (liquid): $188 million (1.8%)
  6. Artificial joints, parts, accessories: $101 million (1%)
  7. Medical/dental/veterinarian instruments: $81 million (0.8%)
  8. Wheeled toys (tricycles, scooters, pedal cars, doll carriages): $76 million (0.7%)
  9. Sunglasses: $71 million (0.7%)
  10. Imitation jewelry (not base metal): $65 million (0.6%)

Rhode Island has highly negative net exports in the international trade of automotive and petroleum products. In turn, these cashflows indicate Rhode Island’s competitive disadvantages under those product categories.


The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchase 69.1% worth of the total value of products exported from Rhode Island during 2018.

  1. Canada: $512 million (21.3% of Rhode Island’s total exports)
  2. Dominican Republic: $240 million (10%)
  3. Mexico: $199 million (8.3%)
  4. China: $144 million (6%)
  5. Turkey: $131 million (5.4%)
  6. Germany: $123 million (5.1%)
  7. Italy: $122 million (5.1%)
  8. Singapore: $66 million (2.7%)
  9. Japan: $64 million (2.6%)
  10. South Korea: $63 million (2.6%)

Rhode Island’s top trade partners in North America (Canada and Mexico) consume 29.6% of the overall value of exported goods from the Ocean State.


Rhode Island Export Companies

Eight Rhode Island-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies, a list that showcases America’s largest businesses. Selected examples are listed below.

  • Nortek (air conditioning goods, safety technology)
  • United Natural Foods (natural, organic, specialty foods)
  • Textron (aerospace, security, advanced techologies)
  • Hasbro (toys, games, sports equipment)

Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related products or services which each business sells.


Rhode Island’s capital is Providence, a city nicknamed the “Creative Capital” and “Renaissance City”.

See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances

Research Sources:
Department of Numbers, Rhode Island GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on June 24, 2019

FlagPictures.org, Flags of US States. Accessed on May 11, 2018

Forbes, 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 24, 2019

GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2016 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on June 24, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 24, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 24, 2019

State Symbols USA, State Nicknames. Accessed on June 24, 2019

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on June 24, 2019

United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: Rhode Island. Accessed on June 24, 2019

Wikipedia, List of Rhode Island Companies. Accessed on June 24, 2019

Wikipedia, List of U.S. states and territories by GDP. Accessed on June 24, 2019

Wikipedia, Rhode Island. Accessed on June 24, 2019

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Providence, United States. Accessed on June 24, 2019

YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on June 24, 2019