Special Report

Places a COVID-19 Recession Will Likely Hit Hardest

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5. East Stroudsburg, PA
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 27.1%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 3,233
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 1,186 (707.7 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: 169,507

Located in the heart of the Pocono Mountain region, East Stroudsburg is one of Pennsylvania’s top tourist destinations, with an estimated 28 million visitors coming to enjoy the mountains every year. More than one in five workers in the East Stroudsburg metro area are employed in leisure and hospitality, a sector many economists are forecasting will be hardest hit by the slowdown in travel and consumer activity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 27.1% of workers in the metro area are employed in industries identified by Moody’s as high-risk, far more than the 17.7% national figure.

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4. Ocean City, NJ
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 29.1%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 3,780
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 369 (393.8 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: 92,560

Located along the New Jersey coast, Ocean City is one of the most tourism-dependent economies in the United States. Some 28.3% of workers are employed in leisure and hospitality, the fourth largest share of any U.S. metro area. With gatherings prohibited, restaurants open for takeout and delivery only, and a statewide stay-at-home order in effect since March 21, New Jersey currently has some of the strictest stay-at-home measures of any state, which is likely hampering consumer activity throughout the area’s beaches. Many of the tourists to the area come from New York and Pennsylvania, which are under similarly strict lockdowns.

Many small businesses in Cape May will likely struggle to generate the cash needed to survive the economic downturn. An estimated 93.2% of businesses in Ocean City have fewer than 20 employees, the largest share of any metro area.

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3. Midland, TX
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 41.1%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 5,092
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 93 (54.8 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: 177,218

Located in the heart of the Permian Basin — a region accounting for about one-third of U.S. oil production — Midland is one of the most energy-dependent economies in the country. Some 27.6% of workers are employed in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector, the largest share of any metro area.

While economists predicted oil-dependent areas would be among the hardest hit by the slowdown in overall consumer activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, few foresaw the additional fallout producers would face from the unexpected price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia that sent the price of U.S. crude oil below zero for the first time in history. Midland oil companies have since been forced to lay off hundreds of workers, with more layoffs likely coming down the pipeline as production continues to idle.

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2. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 35.4%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 43,095
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 4,408 (205.8 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: 2.2 million

Few metro area economies are more vulnerable to the effects of a global pandemic than Las Vegas. The leisure and hospitality sector attracts over 40 million visitors every year, and employed 29.2% of the metro area’s workforce prior to the COVID-19 crisis — the third largest share of any metro area in the United States. But due to safety precautions related to the coronavirus, for the first time in recent history, the Las Vegas Strip is completely shut down.

While the economic impact of the coronavirus shutdown is hard to measure, the Nevada Resort Association has estimated that the state has lost $2 billion from cancelled meetings and conventions so far, which could lead to a total of $39 billion in lost revenue. And while unemployment data also does not capture the true impact of the pandemic, the unemployment rate in Las Vegas rose from 3.7% in February 2020 to 6.8% in March, the third largest increase of any metro area.

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1. Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI
> Pct. of workers in high-risk industries: 40.8%
> Businesses with fewer than 50 employees: 4,476
> COVID-19 cases as of May 6, 2020: 116 (70.2 per 100,000)
> Statewide stay-at-home order enacted: March 25, 2020
> Status of stay-at-home order as of May 6, 2020: In place
> Population: 167,295

While Hawaii has been largely isolated from the worst public health effects of the coronavirus, the state is among the hardest hit by the economic fallout related to the pandemic. With travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders in place in much of the country and the rest of the world, the total number of visitors to the islands fell by over 50% in March 2020 compared to the prior year.

Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina is poised to be particularly hard hit by the slowdown in tourist activity. Some 32.2% of workers were employed in leisure and hospitality prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the largest share of any U.S. metro area. In total, 40.8% of workers were employed in industries identified by Moody’s as high-risk, far more than the double the 17.7% national figure.