Special Report

State Economies Hit Hardest By the COVID-19 Recession

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20. Illinois
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.0%
> 2020 GDP: $742.3 billion (5th largest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-29.6%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (+66.8%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 7.1% (10th highest)

Economic output in Illinois fell from $773.1 billion in 2019 to $742.3 billion in 2020. The 4.0% economic contraction was slightly steeper than the comparable economic decline nationwide. Steep declines in sectors related to tourism and travel were partially offset by rapid gains in agriculture. Illinois’ agricultural industry added more than half a percentage point to GDP growth in 2020.

Employment in non-agricultural sectors in Illinois declined precipitously in the last year. There were an average of 434,000 fewer people working in the state in 2020 compared to the previous year, a 7.1% decline. The state’s unemployment rate of 7.1% is considerably higher than the 6.1% national rate.

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19. South Carolina
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.1%
> 2020 GDP: $206.2 billion (25th smallest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-24.9%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing (+0.7%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 5.0% (24th highest)

South Carolina’s economy contracted by 4.1% in 2020, over a half a percentage point more than the national contraction that year. The state’s economy was weighed down most by the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services and manufacturing sectors, which accounted for GDP declines of 1.1 percentage points and 0.6 percentage points, respectively. Meanwhile, finance, insurance, and real estate and utilities were the only sectors to expand in the state in 2020.

Employment declines in South Carolina were most pronounced in the state’s leisure and hospitality and information sectors, which shed 16.2% and 8.2% of their workforces, respectively. Overall, there were 111,000 fewer people working in South Carolina in 2020 than in 2019.

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18. New Jersey
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.1%
> 2020 GDP: $534.1 billion (9th largest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-31.0%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Information (+6.5%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 7.5% (7th highest)

New Jersey’s GDP fell by 4.1% in 2020. The state went from having the eighth largest economy in the country in 2019 with a GDP of $556.7 billion to the ninth largest in 2020 with a GDP of $534.1 billion. Employment in New Jersey fell by 8.4% over the same period, well above the 5.8% decline in employment nationwide.

Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services is vitally important to New Jersey’s economy, and due largely to efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the sector contracted by 31.0% in 2020, posing a 1 percentage point net drag on GDP growth.

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17. Connecticut
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.1%
> 2020 GDP: $241.1 billion (23rd largest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-28.6%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Information (+7.2%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 8.1% (5th highest)

Connecticut’s economy contracted by $10.3 billion in 2020, or 4.1% — a larger decrease than in most states. Growth in sectors like information, agriculture, and utilities were cancelled out by steep declines in arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services and transportation and warehousing.

The COVID-19 recession was accompanied by an unemployment crisis in Connecticut. The state shed some 131,000 jobs in 2020. As of April 2021, unemployment in the state stood at 8.1%, well above the 6.1% national jobless rate.

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16. Maine
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.1%
> 2020 GDP: $56.4 billion (8th smallest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-27.5%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Utilities (+11.0%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 4.8% (23rd highest)

Maine’s economic output fell by over $2.4 billion in 2020, a 4.1% contraction. Construction and utilities were the only two industries that grew in Maine last year. Meanwhile, several industries, including arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services and transportation and warehousing, reported double digit contractions.

Employment declines were also larger in Maine than in much of the country. The state’s workforce shrank by 6.4% in 2020, compared to the 5.8% national employment decline.