Special Report

Places a COVID-19 Recession Will Likely Hit Hardest

Source: benedek / E+ via Getty Images

10. Farmington, NM
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 24.0%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 2,515
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 806 (632.4 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: March 24, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: In place
> Population: 125,043

Farmington, located in northwestern New Mexico, is one of several metro areas on this list heavily dependent on resource extraction. More than one in every 10 workers in the area were employed in the mining and oil and gas extraction industry prior to the COVID-19 crisis — more than 20 times the industry’s national employment concentration. The industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic as increased global production and plummeting demand have resulted in an oil glut and cratering prices.

The COVID-19 infection and fatality rate has been far higher than average in the Farmington metro area. As of March 6, there were 632 cases of the virus and 49 deaths for every 100,000 people — well above the national rates of 368 cases and 20 deaths per 100,000.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

9. Laredo, TX
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 31.0%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 5,125
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 396 (145.6 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: April 2, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: Lifted
> Population: 275,910

The transportation and warehousing industry is expected to see a considerable decline in demand from both commercial and consumer markets in the wake of COVID-19 — and no metro area has a larger share of its workforce employed in transportation and warehousing than Laredo, Texas. Nearly 15% of all area workers were employed in the industry prior to the COVID-19 crisis, more than quadruple the national concentration.

Jobless claims began climbing rapidly in Laredo even before Texas’s stay-at-home order went into effect on April 2. The area’s unemployment rate stood at 5.1% in March, up 1.3 percentage points from February.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

8. Odessa, TX
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 33.1%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 3,422
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 84 (53.0 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: April 2, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: Lifted
> Population: 162,124

The west Texas metro area of Odessa is economically dependent on oil and gas extraction. The industry, which has been among the hardest hit during the pandemic, accounted for 16.1% of total employment in the area prior to COVID-19 — 35 times the national concentration. When accounting for other highly exposed industries such as transportation and warehousing and leisure and hospitality, nearly a third of all area workers are at greater than average risk of losing their jobs in the wake of the pandemic.

7. Houma-Thibodaux, LA
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 29.5%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 4,332
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 1,155 (547.9 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: 209,136

The industry makeup in the Houma-Thibodaux metro area, located in southeastern Louisiana along the Gulf Coast, makes it especially susceptible to severe economic fallout during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 7% of workers in the metro area were employed in oil and gas extraction prior to COVID-19, an industry that has reported widespread layoffs amid an international price war and reduced demand during the pandemic. Industry leaders in the area penned a letter to the White House, requesting a reduction in the amount companies are charged to drill in the Gulf.

Additionally, more than one in 10 workers in the metro area were employed in the transportation and warehousing industry prior to the COVID-19 crisis, another sector of the economy projected to bear the brunt of the ongoing economic downturn.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

6. Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 33.3%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 5,914
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 1,190 (443.1 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: March 21, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: In place
> Population: 265,429

New Jersey has one of the longest-standing stay-at-home orders of any state. The order went into effect on March 21, and Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has yet to indicate when he plans on lifting it. Despite the statewide order, cases of COVID-19 are surging in the Atlantic City metro area. As of May 6, there had been a total of 1,190 cases, a 136% increase from two weeks prior.

Atlantic City bills itself as “the seaside gaming and resort capital of the East Coast” and draws in about 27 million visitors per year. Like other parts of the country heavily dependent on tourism, unemployment will likely be a massive problem in the metro area in the coming months as nonessential travel has been effectively nonexistent during the pandemic. Prior to the crisis more than 31% of workers in the metro area worked in leisure and hospitality, nearly the largest share of any U.S. metro area.