This was the third week in a row that gasoline prices dropped in Rhode Island.
Self-serve, regular unleaded gasoline is averaging $2.37 in the Ocean State. The price is a penny less than a month ago and 6 cents less than the national average of $2.43. A year ago, Rhode Island's average price was $3.60.
Prices range from $2.17 to $2.59. Prices of different grades of gasoline are as follows: midgrade unleaded, $2.63; premium unleaded $2.77; and diesel, $3.09.
In Massachusetts, self-serve, regular unleaded prices remained the same as the week before at $2.33 per gallon. Prices are 5 cents lower than a month ago, and 10 cents less than the national average for self-serve unleaded. A year ago, the Massachusetts average price was $3.52.
Prices range from $2.11 to $2.59 in the Bay State, with various grades of gasoline as follows: $2.52 for midgrade unleaded, $2.65 for premium unleaded and $3.04 for diesel.
AAA offered the following fuel saving tip: Because heavier vehicles use more gasoline, remove unnecessary weight from the passenger compartment, trunk or cargo area.]]>
Rhode Island came in at No. 51, out of all the states and the District of Columbia, according to the personal finance website, which looked at 12 metrics, including average annual wages and patient population size to come up with the findings.
In individual categories, the Ocean State ranked low - 46th - for average starting salary, which was adjusted for cost of living; and 47th for projected physicians per capita in 2022, as well as malpractice payouts per capita.
Average annual wages, adjusted for cost of living, ranked Rhode Island at 44th, while physician wage disparity placed the state at 42nd, and number of hospitals per capita, 39th.
The only category in which the Ocean State fared well was projected percentage of population over 65 by 2030, where it came in 18th.
South Carolina ranked first overall on the list.
Massachusetts ranked the highest among the New England states at 28th. Vermont was 30th; New Hampshire, 42nd; Connecticut, 45th; and Maine, 47th.
WalletHub said the average medical school graduate leaves school with approximately $176,000 in debt. To help doctors make informed decisions about where to live and work, as well as to help local governments identify policy initiatives, WalletHub conducted the study to identify 2015's best and worst states for doctors.]]>
The 0.1 percent gain followed a 0.2 percent drop the prior month, Commerce Department figures showed Monday in Washington. The median forecast of 74 economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.2 percent gain. Adjusted for inflation, spending declined for the first time in almost a year.
Frigid temperatures and snow in much of the Northeast and Midwest last month emptied malls and auto-dealer lots as Americans huddled at home to keep warm. While warmer weather may bring out shoppers, steady gains in payrolls have yet to foster bigger wage gains, which would help bolster spending.
"Consumer spending is looking soft here, some of it was the weather effect," Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets LLC in New York, the top spending forecaster over the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Consumption "will come back in the second quarter."
Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index maturing in June rose 0.5 percent to 2,062.6 at 8:55 a.m. in New York amid corporate mergers and optimism central banks will support global growth.
Projections for spending ranged from little changed to a 0.5 percent gain. The previous month's reading was initially reported as a decline of 0.2 percent.
Incomes climbed 0.4 percent in February for a second month, propelled by a jump in dividends. The Bloomberg survey median called for incomes to rise 0.3 percent. The prior month's income figure was previously reported as a 0.3 percent gain.
Wages and salaries increased 0.3 percent after a 0.6 percent gain in January.
The economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter, led by the biggest gain in consumer spending in eight years, revised Commerce Department data showed Friday. The 4.4 percent jump in household purchases was the most since the first three months of 2006 and reflected bigger outlays on health care than previously estimated.
Last quarter's surge in purchases will be difficult to match this quarter as American consumers decided to squirrel away the extra cash from cheaper fuel. The saving rate increased to 5.8 percent last month, the highest since December 2012, from 5.5 percent.
The report also showed that adjusting consumer spending for inflation, which generates the figures used to calculate gross domestic product, purchases declined 0.1 percent, the first drop since April, after a 0.2 percent increase in the previous month.
Durable goods purchases, including automobiles, decreased 1.1 percent after adjusting for inflation, the worst performance since December 2013. Spending on non-durable goods, which include gasoline, was little changed.
The biggest surprise may have been outlays on services, which rose 0.1 percent after adjusting for inflation, the smallest gain since July. The category includes utilities, so economists were projecting a jump to help offset the weaker readings elsewhere.
Americans, especially those living in the eastern U.S., felt the pinch from higher heating bills that came due this month. Some 23 states had a top-10 coldest February and nine had their second-coldest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Residents in Chicago and Cleveland observed record-low February temperatures.
The cold weather also slowed showroom traffic, hurting car purchases. Ford Motor Co.'s light-vehicle sales slipped last month, while results at General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. rose less than analysts estimated.
While gasoline prices advanced last month from a six-year low of $2.03 a gallon on Jan. 25, the nationwide average of $2.42 on Sunday was little changed from the end of February, according to figures from the motoring group AAA.
An improving job market continues to work in favor of consumers. February marked the 12th straight month that payrolls climbed by at least 200,000, and the jobless rate was the lowest in almost seven years, Labor Department data showed.
"The consumer is in decent shape," Karen Hoguet, chief financial officer at department store chain Macy's Inc., said during a March 24 conference presentation. At the same time, where customers are choosing to spend their money is "still going to be a challenge for retailers like us," she said, citing electronics and cable services as alternate purchases.
Monday's report also showed prices were stabilizing. The Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation, the price gauge based on the personal consumption expenditures, increased 0.2 percent from the prior month, the first advance since September, and was up 0.3 percent from a year earlier.
The core price measure, which excludes food and fuel, rose 0.1 percent from the prior month and increased 1.4 percent from February 2014. The 1.3 percent year-to-year readings in January and December were the lowest since March 2014.
Inflation hasn't been above the Fed's 2 percent goal since March 2012.]]>
UnitedHealth will pay $61.50 a share, financing the acquisition with cash and debt, the companies said in a statement. The offer, UnitedHealth's largest purchase ever, is 27 percent more than Catamaran's closing share price of $48.32 on Friday.
Companies that provide health insurance to their employees are becoming more reliant on drug-benefit managers to help rein in the rising cost of drugs. Express Scripts Holding Co., the biggest in the industry, successfully led a campaign last year to push for discounts on $1,000-a-day treatments for hepatitis C by drugmakers Gilead Sciences Inc. and AbbVie Inc.
The deal lets UnitedHealth bet more on growth in drug benefits as the initial surge of new health-insurance customers from Obamacare begins to slow. The biggest U.S. health insurer will combine Catamaran with its drug-benefit unit, called OptumRX.
"The combination diversifies OptumRx's customer and business mix, while accelerating its technology leadership and flexible service offerings," the companies said. Schaumburg, Ill.-based Catamaran adds an "industry-leading technology platform" to OptumRx's capabilities in data and analytics, they said.
UnitedHealth rose 4.2 percent to $122.94 in early trading. Catamaran gained 24 percent to $60.03.
The drug-benefits industry gets about $100 billion in annual revenue that may quadruple by 2020, the companies said. Even with the acquisition, Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth will remain third in the industry behind Express Scripts and CVS Health Corp. in revenue and people covered, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Mark Thierer, Catamaran's chairman and CEO, will become CEO of OptumRx, and Timothy Wicks, the current CEO, will become president, according to the statement. The purchase is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015, and will add about 30 cents to UnitedHealth's earnings per share in 2016, the companies said.
The acquisition is the second announced for a drug-benefit manager this year. Rite Aid Corp. agreed to buy EnvisionRX last month for $2 billion.]]>
The funds are from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program.
"This federal funding will help Rhode Islanders living with HIV and AIDS get access to life-saving care. We have come a long way in the fight against HIV/AIDS and we still have further to go. Through better education, outreach and prevention initiatives, we can ensure people who are at risk are tested, diagnosed and connected to the right care and needed treatments," Reed said. "We want to reach patients who may not otherwise get help and ensure that community-based centers and clinics can better assist them, whether it's with screening or getting them the right types of medicine and treatment."
The Ryan White CARE Act was first enacted in 1990. It was reauthorized in 2009 with Reed's help.
Thanks to federal-local partnerships established by law, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program works with cities, states and local community-based organizations to provide services to an estimated 536,000 people nationwide each year who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources to cope with the HIV disease.
The federal funding is targeted to encourage outreach and testing. It requires that 75 percent of funding be spent on medical services such as medications, outpatient and ambulatory medical services, mental health services and home health care.
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there were 3,158 people in Rhode Island living with AIDS through 2013, as well as an additional 2,083 people living with HIV in the state.
Last year, the R.I. Department of Health reported 87 new diagnoses of HIV infection through October of 2014, compared with 74 the previous year.]]>
Fields, of Providence, was chosen to lead the agency by a unanimous vote during a special meeting of the agency's Board of Commissioners on Friday afternoon, according to a news release.
"It is an honor to be selected to lead the dedicated, passionate team at Rhode Island Housing," Fields said in a statement. "Rhode Island Housing touches people in communities throughout Rhode Island - helping families purchase their first homes, expanding access to safe, affordable housing and encouraging vibrant neighborhoods where people can live and work."
"I am committed to continuing the agency's efforts to increase community investment and help create jobs," she added, noting that Rhode Island Housing had a total impact of $375 million on the local economy last year.
Fields replaces Richard Godfrey, who retired Jan. 31 after working for the organization for more than 20 years.
Fields recently served as New England regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Previously, Fields served for 20 years as the founding executive director of the Rhode Island office of Local Initiatives Support Corp., which focuses on community development.]]>
As part of her budget proposal, the governor has advocated lifting the moratorium on state participation in school building projects, and appropriating $90 million in the upcoming fiscal year for school construction. As part of the $90 million, the building authority also would receive a $20 million capital fund for school repairs.
The $70 million portion of that appropriation will go toward reimbursements on already completed projects. Beginning in fiscal 2017, a standing appropriation of $80 million would be made, she said, providing an opportunity for continuing investment.
"It is harder for teachers to teach and children to learn if their buildings are falling apart," Raimondo said.
The School Building Authority would be within the state Department of Education, and would partner with cities and towns to rebuild schools. The process would start with an independent assessment of current building needs, according to Raimondo. The assessment would create baseline adequacy standards for public schools. Schools would then be prioritized.
"We shouldn't be doing this on a first-come, first-served basis," she said, announcing details of the program after touring the Pell School in Newport, the last public school in Rhode Island constructed before the state's moratorium took effect.
The lifting of the moratorium will allow the state to upgrade aging facilities, making sure all children attend school in buildings that are safe and efficient, she said.
Many children in Rhode Island do not have an opportunity to attend school in facilities such as the Pell School, she noted. The average age of school facilities in the state is 60 years old, according to the governor.
"There are equity gaps," Raimondo said. "I don't care where you're in south Providence or in Westerly, you should be able to go to a school just like this."
Attending the press conference following the tour were several representatives of the building trades in Rhode Island.
Although the primary reason for the reinvestment in school construction is to improve aging educational facilities, it is important to remember that some of the building trades have unemployment rates approaching 20 percent, Raimondo said.
"We have a very high unemployment rate in our building trades," she said. "Some of them still have 20 percent unemployment rates in the building trades. It's not right."]]>
In fact, the Ocean State and Kentucky had the largest declines, at 2.1 percentage points each, according to data released Friday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Kentucky's jobless rate dropped to 5.2 percent from 7.3 percent.
Rhode Island's jobless rate still remains higher than the national average, however, which was 5.5 percent in February.
Among the New England states, Connecticut had the highest jobless rate in February at 6.4 percent. Maine's rate was 5 percent; Massachusetts' rate was 4.9 percent; and New Hampshire and Vermont each had rates of 3.9 percent.
In February, 19 states and the District of Columbia had statistically different over-the-month increases in employment, while Rhode Island experienced the most significant decrease at 2,700 jobs.
The largest job gains occurred in California, with 29,400 jobs; Georgia, 25,400 jobs and New York, 20,200 jobs, the federal agency said.]]>
Rhode Island construction firms added 200 jobs in February, bringing the job total to 16,500, an increase of 1.2 percent compared with the prior year period, ranking it 42nd nationwide.
Texas added more new construction jobs (44,600 jobs, 7 percent) between February 2014 and February 2015 than any other state. Other states that added a high number of new construction jobs over the past 12 months included California (43,400 jobs, 6.5 percent) and Florida (29,600 jobs, 7.7 percent). North Dakota (14.7 percent, 4,800 jobs) added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year, followed by Idaho (14.3 percent, 5,000 jobs).
Four states shed construction jobs during the past 12 months; construction employment was unchanged in Delaware. Mississippi lost the highest percentage and total number of jobs (-4,400 jobs, -8.7 percent). Other states that lost construction jobs for the year were Indiana (-1,500 jobs, -1.2 percent), West Virginia (-700 jobs, -2.1 percent) and Maine (-300 jobs, -1.2 percent.)
Association officials said that growing labor, funding and regulatory challenges could affect future job gains.
"Construction employment continues to recover in many parts of the country even as some markets have a hard time stabilizing," Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, said in a statement.]]>
Lt. Christopher D. Francesconi said police received multiple 911 calls Tuesday night at approximately 11:15 p.m. about a vehicle fire at the end of North Hull Street, adjacent to Interstate 195 west.
When police and firefighters arrived at the scene, they discovered that Bready had been removed from the sport utility vehicle by Cranston Officer Brenton Medeiros.
Francesconi said it appears that Bready "may have suffered some sort of medical" condition. No charges will be filed, he said. Police said Bready was wearing his seatbelt.
Francesconi said Bready was driving south on North Hull Street when he sideswiped a parked vehicle and crashed into a guardrail. Bready was transported to Rhode Island Hospital after the crash with minor injuries, police said.
Neither Bready nor Medeiros could be reached for comment.
Medeiros told WPRI-Channel 12 that he does not consider himself a hero, and was just in the right place at the right time.
Bready, of Providence, retired from Nortek in 2011.
Bready, along with Thomas Melucci, teamed up to bring Hope Valley Industries in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown out of bankruptcy in 2002, and the company is being honored April 2 in the PBN Manufacturing Awards program for Excellence by a company with more than 150 employees.]]>