Special Report

State Economies Hit Hardest by COVID-19

Source: Adventure_Photo / Getty Images

1. Utah
> 1-year GDP change: +1.1%
> Fastest growing industry: Construction (+10.6%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation (-45.5%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 4.3%

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain the spread of the virus, the U.S. economy contracted by 2.8% from the third quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2020. Over that period, Utah was one of only three states to report economic growth. Due in large part to a surge in construction, Utah’s economy expanded by a nation-leading 1.1% over the past year.

Though Utah’s economy stands alone as especially resilient in these unprecedented times, it too has suffered considerably due to the pandemic. The state’s arts, entertainment, and recreation industry shrank by nearly half, and its November unemployment rate stood at 4.3%, well above the comparable 2.4% jobless rate one year ago.

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Dicklyon

2. Washington
> 1-year GDP change: +0.5%
> Fastest growing industry: Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (+15.5%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation (-55.1%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 6.0%

Washington’s economic growth of 0.5% from the third quarter of 2019 to the third quarter in 2020 was a fraction of the state’s 3.7% growth over the same period one year earlier.

The relatively stagnant growth was due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which took a considerable toll on a number of industries in the state. Washington’s accommodation and food services industry contracted by 18.6%, while economic activity in the resource extraction sector fell by 22.7%. As was the case in most states, Washington’s hardest hit industry was arts, entertainment, and recreation, which reported a 55.1% economic decline in the last year.

Source: knowlesgallery / Getty Images

3. Idaho
> 1-year GDP change: +0.1%
> Fastest growing industry: Utilities (+12.5%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation (-41.1%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 4.8%

Idaho is one of only three states with an economy that grew between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020. Despite the nationwide economic slowdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Idaho reported relatively strong growth in its utilities, construction, finance, and wholesale trade sectors. Though several industries in the state contracted, in many of them, the contraction was not as pronounced as it was in other parts of the country. These industries include health care, education, and accommodation and food services.

Despite the modest economic growth in the past year, Idaho’s job market is in far worse shape than it was one year ago. As of November 2020, 4.8% of the labor force was unemployed, compared to 2.9% in November 2019.

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

4. Arizona
> 1-year GDP change: -0.1%
> Fastest growing industry: Management of companies and enterprises (+13.2%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation (-45.1%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 7.8%

Of the 47 states to report an economic downturn between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, Arizona’s was the least pronounced. Arizona’s economic output totaled $324.7 billion in the third quarter of 2020, down 0.1% from $325.1 billion the year before. For context, the entire U.S. economy reported a 2.8% contraction over the same period. Economic damage resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic was mitigated in Arizona by stronger than average growth in the manufacturing, wholesale trade, and retail industries.

While economic activity remained relatively flat in Arizona over the past year, the state’s job market has taken a much larger hit. Arizona’s November unemployment rate was 7.8%, compared to 4.5% the year before.

Source: f11photo / Getty Images

5. Colorado
> 1-year GDP change: -1.4%
> Fastest growing industry: Information (+10.7%)
> Fastest shrinking industry: Arts, entertainment, and recreation (-40.0%)
> Nov. 2020 unemployment rate: 6.4%

Colorado’s economy contracted by 1.4% between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020. Over the 12 months going into that period, Colorado reported 4.6% economic growth. The economic decline in the state was largely the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to double-digit declines in the state’s agriculture, transportation and warehousing, accommodation and food services, and arts, entertainment, and recreation industries.

Despite the decline, Colorado’s economy was not affected nearly as bad as that of most other states. Blue-collar and service workers were far more likely to be affected by the pandemic than white-collar workers, and in Colorado, 42.7% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 33.1% of adults nationwide.