Special Report

Places a COVID-19 Recession Will Likely Hit Hardest

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15. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 28.1%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 61,312
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 2,598 (106.0 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: April 3, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: Lifted
> Population: 2.6 million

Home to a number of attractions — including Disney’s Magic Kingdom — the Orlando metropolitan area economy is based around tourism. Disney World alone drew in nearly 21 million visitors in 2018. Disney World shut down in mid-March, weeks before Florida issued a stay-at-home order, and it has yet to announce a reopening date — even though Florida lifted its statewide stay-at-home order on May 4. In mid-April the theme park furloughed 100,000 employees.

Even before Disney’s layoffs and Florida’s stay-at-home order, unemployment was on the rise in the Orlando area. As of March, the metro area’s unemployment rate stood at 4.2%, up 1.4 percentage points from February.

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14. Brunswick, GA
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 26.8%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 2,789
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 87 (74.6 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: April 3, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: Rolled back to high risk groups
> Population: 116,864

The Brunswick metro area is located in southeastern Georgia along the Atlantic coast. Few parts of the country are as dependent on tourism as Brunswick — and tourism is among the industries most affected by COVID-19 as nonessential travel has effectively ground to a halt. Nearly 22% of workers in the metro area were employed in the leisure and hospitality industry prior to the recession.

Despite concerns that lifting restrictions too early to restart the economy could backfire if cases of COVID-19 begin to surge again, Georgia’s stay-at-home order was in place for less than a month, lifted on April 30. Fortunately however, the number of confirmed cases in Brunswick climbed by a relatively low 16% over the two weeks leading up to May 6, a smaller increase than in most metro areas.

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13. Reno, NV
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 27.2%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 12,034
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 988 (217.4 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: April 1, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: In place
> Population: 471,265

Reno’s economy is especially exposed to a slowdown in the wake of COVID-19 due to the area’s high employment concentration in industries like transportation and warehousing, leisure and hospitality, and services — each of which is expected to report higher than average job losses. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, fewer than one in every five workers in the metro area were employed in low-exposure industries like finance and utilities, compared to about half of all workers nationwide.

Nevada implemented a stay-at-home order on April 1 — but even before those restrictions took effect unemployment began climbing in Reno. As of March, 5.1% of workers in the metro area were unemployed, up 2.2 percentage points from February.

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12. Flagstaff, AZ
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 27.5%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 3,554
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 561 (400.1 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: March 31, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: In place
> Population: 142,854

A popular tourist destination for its climate and scenic beauty, the Flagstaff metro area is economically dependent on visitors from around the country and the world. As nonessential travel in the United States has slowed nearly to a halt in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, many of the more than 15,000 Flagstaff residents who work in leisure and hospitality face a far less certain future with regards to job security.

Even before Arizona’s statewide shelter-in-place order went into effect at the end of March, unemployment was surging in Flagstaff. The metro area’s March unemployment rate of 6.9% was 1.6 percentage points higher than it was in February.

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11. New Orleans-Metairie, LA
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 22.2%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 29,336
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 16,743 (1,325.0 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: March 23, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: In place
> Population: 1.3 million

Few parts of the country have been hit as hard by the coronavirus as the New Orleans metro area. As of March 6, there were 1,325 cases of the virus and 89 deaths for every 100,000 people — well above the national rates of 368 cases and 20 deaths per 100,000. Partially as a result, the state has had one of the longest-standing shelter-in-place orders — going into effect on March 23 and not set to expire until May 15.

While shelter-in-place orders are critical for stopping the spread of the virus, they are harmful to business — particularly small businesses that are less likely to have cash to pay the bills during a prolonged closure. There are nearly 30,000 businesses in the New Orleans area with fewer than 50 employees.