Special Report

State Economies Hit Hardest By the COVID-19 Recession

Source: f11photo / Getty Images

15. Pennsylvania
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.4%
> 2020 GDP: $694.2 billion (6th largest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-30.2%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Utilities (+4.7%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 7.4% (8th highest)

Pennsylvania’s economy contracted by nearly $32 billion in 2020, the fourth largest monetary drop in output of any state. However, Pennsylvania’s economy is sixth largest in the country, and its GDP decline totalled 4.4%, the 15th largest decline among states.

Modest growths in sectors like utilities and finance, insurance, and real estate were not enough to counterbalance steep declines elsewhere in the economy. For example, the state’s arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services sector contracted by 30.2% in 2020, accounting for a 1.0 percentage point net economic decline.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

14. Wisconsin
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.5%
> 2020 GDP: $294.2 billion (21st largest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-25.5%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Utilities (+5.2%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 3.9% (12th lowest)

Wisconsin reported a 4.5% decline in GDP in 2020 — a full percentage point above the comparable national contraction. Utilities and finance, insurance, and real estate were the only two sectors to report growth. Meanwhile, the state’s arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services, transportation and warehousing, and resource extraction sectors each reported double digit contractions.

Job losses in Wisconsin were somewhat modest in the last year relative to the economic declines. Employment fell by 5.7% in the state in 2020, compared with the 5.8% national employment decline. Currently, Wisconsin’s jobless rate stands at 3.9%, well below the 6.1% U.S. rate.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

13. Rhode Island
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.5%
> 2020 GDP: $51.2 billion (6th smallest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-27.5%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Utilities (+0.6%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 6.3% (17th highest)

Economic output in Rhode Island fell from $53.7 billion in 2019 to $51.2 billion in 2020. The 4.5% economic contraction was a full percentage point steeper than the comparable national economic decline. Job losses were even worse in Rhode Island, as employment fell by 8.8% in 2020, well above the 5.8% national employment decline.

Industries hit hardest in the state were arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services and education and health care services, which each posed a net drag of over 1 percentage point on the state’s economic growth. The state’s leisure and hospitality sector shed over a quarter of its workforce in the last year.

Source: gchapel / Getty Images

12. Nevada
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.6%
> 2020 GDP: $146.7 billion (18th smallest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (-21.0%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (+11.3%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 8.0% (6th highest)

Nevada is one of only a dozen states where GDP declined by at least 4.6% in 2020. Tourism is one of the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is also an economic pillar in the state. Only 19 million people visited Las Vegas in 2020, the least since 1989 and less than half the 42.5 million visitors reported in 2019. The arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services sector alone accounted for a 3.1 percentage point drag on Nevada’s GDP in 2020.

Job losses were also steep in Nevada in 2020. The state’s leisure and hospitality industry shed 28.1% of its workforce, contributing to the 10.4% total decline in employment, the second largest employment decline of any state. Currently, Nevada’s jobless rate stands at 8.0%, well above the 6.1% U.S. rate.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

11. New Hampshire
> 1-yr. GDP change: -4.7%
> 2020 GDP: $73.6 billion (11th smallest)
> Fastest shrinking industry, 2019-2020: Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (-34.2%)
> Fastest growing industry, 2019-2020: Utilities (+8.2%)
> April 2021 unemployment: 2.8% (4th lowest)

New Hampshire’s GDP fell by 4.7% in 2020. The state went from having the 39th largest economy in the country in 2019 with a GDP of $77.2 billion to the 40th largest in 2020 with a GDP of $73.6 billion. Employment in the state fell by 6.7% over the same period, above the 5.8% decline in employment nationwide.

Only a handful of industries in New Hampshire expanded in 2020, and their growth was negligible. Meanwhile, the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services sector alone accounted for a 1.7 percentage point drag on New Hampshire’s GDP in 2020.