Special Report

The Places a COVID-19 Recession Will Likely Hit Hardest


To determine the local economies most at risk from the coronavirus pandemic, 24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of three measures. The first measure, which comprises 80% of the index, is the share of total employment in industries deemed to be at high-risk of slowdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. The second measure, which comprises 10% of the index, is the coronavirus infection rate per capita as of March 31 2020. The final 10% of the index is the number of people per square mile, as higher population density appears to make the spread of the virus more likely. We only considered counties and county equivalents that fall within a metropolitan area because metro areas are typically hubs of economic activity.

The identification of high-risk industries comes from the March 2020 paper “COVID-19: A Fiscal Stimulus Plan” published by Moody’s Analytics. Employment data by industry came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and are annual estimates for 2018.

Data on COVID-19 cases and deaths by county and state came from the New York Times and are current as of March 31, 2020. COVID-19 cases and death toll were adjusted for population using five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. The NYT provides one aggregated measure for the five counties that comprise New York City, so the five counties that constitute New York City — New York, Kings, Queens, Bronx, and Richmond — were assigned the same COVID-19 per capita rates that are representative of New York City as a whole.

Population density was calculated using 2010 land area estimates from the Census Bureau and five-year population estimates from the 2018 ACS. Data on the percentage of the population that is 65 years and older are also five-year estimates from the 2018 ACS.

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