Special Report

State Economies Hit Hardest by COVID-19

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46. West Virginia
> 1-year GDP change: -5.0%
> Fastest growing industry: Utilities (+6.5%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Accommodation and food services (-20.8%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 6.2%

The number of employed people in West Virginia fell by 54,000, or roughly 7%, between September 2019 and September 2020. That percentage decline was the 14th largest of any state. Over that same period, the state’s GDP fell by 5%, the fifth largest decline of any state.

While the arts and entertainment sector was in most states the hardest hit by COVID-19, West Virginia is one of two states where the accommodation and food services sector registered the largest decline, with the sector’s output shrinking by 20.8%. The state is home to a substantial coal mining industry, and West Virginia’s mining, quarrying and natural resource extraction sector contracted by 17.4% through the third quarter of 2020.

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47. New York
> 1-year GDP change: -5.8%
> Fastest growing industry: Information (+7.3%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation (-60.0%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 8.4%

New York state was one of the first to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the first to shut down large parts of its economy to combat the virus. In the 12 months ending in the third quarter of 2020, the state’s economy contracted by 5.8%, the fourth largest decline of any state.

The output of the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry, as might be expected given the restrictions on public gatherings that were in place for much of 2020, fell by a staggering 60% from the third quarter of 2019 through the third quarter of 2020, one of the largest contractions of any single state sector in the country.

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48. Oklahoma
> 1-year GDP change: -6.3%
> Fastest growing industry: Management of companies and enterprises (+24.0%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (-27.6%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 5.9%

Oklahoma is one of three states in which the GDP dropped by over 6% from Q3 2019 to Q3 2020. In nearly every state, the arts sector was the fastest-shrinking industry during that time. Yet in Oklahoma, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction was the fastest shrinking sector, contracting by more than 27%. This was the result of declining demand as travel slowed to a crawl and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The mining, quarrying, and extraction industry in Oklahoma contributed $41.8 billion to the state’s overall GDP of $199 billion in Q3 2019. A year later, the sector contributed just $30.3 billion as the state’s GDP declined to $186 billion.

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49. Wyoming
> 1-year GDP change: -7.9%
> Fastest growing industry: Utilities (+8.8%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (-28.5%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 5.1%

Wyoming is the nation’s largest coal-producing state and one of the largest oil producers as well. The mining and natural resource extraction industry is the state’s largest employer. Between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2020, the total output of that industry in the state fell by 23.9%, one of the largest declines for that sector of any state.

Despite that substantial drop, between September 2019 and September 2020, Wyoming’s total employment decreased by only about 5,500, or 2% — by both measures one of the smallest employment declines of any state over that time. Still, the state’s November unemployment rate of 3.7% was slightly higher than the comparable national unemployment rate of 3.5%.

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50. Hawaii
> 1-year GDP change: -8.2%
> Fastest growing industry: Utilities (+10.2%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation (-50.9%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 10.1%

No state has seen its economy slow down as severely as Hawaii amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Hawaii’s Q3 2020 GDP was 8.2% lower than it was in Q3 2019, falling from $82.4 billion to $75.7 billion. The state’s warm weather makes it a popular tourist destination, but with travel restrictions and reduced plane service, the state’s economic output due to tourism was cut in half. The accommodation and food service sector shrank by 43.7%, nearly double the 21.9% decline in that sector nationwide. Hawaii’s manufacturing and wholesale trade GDP both fell by over 10% from 2019 Q3 to 2020 Q3 — the largest declines of any state.

No state lost a larger share of its jobs than Hawaii. The Aloha State’s total employment dropped by 19.4% between 2020 Q3 and a year before. Its unemployment rate skyrocketed from the third lowest in March 2020, at 2.4%, to the third highest in April 2020, at 23.8%. As of November 2020, it still had the second highest unemployment rate.