Special Report

How COVID-19 Affected Kentucky's Economy

The U.S. economy reported its worst quarterly decline in modern history during the COVID-19 pandemic, with gross domestic product shrinking at an annual rate of 31.4% in the second quarter. The economy bounced back in the third quarter, but efforts to contain the virus’s spread throughout 2020 still resulted in a 3.5% annual economic contraction in the United States.

Arriving on the heels of a historic period of growth, COVID-19 brought about a decline in gross domestic product in every state in the country. However, no two state economies are alike, and partially as a result, some states were hit far harder than others.

Economic output in Kentucky fell from $190.8 billion in 2019 to $183.8 billion in 2020. The 3.7% economic contraction was steeper than it was in about half of all states. Industries like arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services, educational services, and transportation and warehousing were considerable drags on growth.

Not all sectors in Kentucky contracted in the last year, however. The state’s agriculture industry expanded by nearly 10% in 2020, and the utilities sector expanded by nearly 9%.

States are ranked based on the percentage change in real GDP from 2019 to 2020. Data on GDP and industry-specific real GDP came from the BEA. Data on average annual employment and the seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate each came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Rank State Change in GDP, 2020 (%) April 2021 unemployment (%) Change in nonfarm employment, 2020 (%)
1 Hawaii -8.0 8.5 -9.4
2 Wyoming -7.0 5.4 -4.1
3 Oklahoma -6.1 4.3 -4.9
4 New York -5.9 8.2 -10.3
5 West Virginia -5.5 5.8 -6.6
6 Louisiana -5.5 7.3 -1.8
7 Vermont -5.4 2.9 -9.3
8 Michigan -5.4 4.9 -5.8
9 Alaska -4.9 6.7 -8.7
10 Tennessee -4.9 5.0 -17.5
11 New Hampshire -4.7 2.8 -6.7
12 Nevada -4.6 8.0 -10.4
13 Rhode Island -4.5 6.3 -8.8
14 Wisconsin -4.5 3.9 -6.3
15 Pennsylvania -4.4 7.4 1.9
16 Maine -4.1 4.8 -6.4
17 Connecticut -4.1 8.1 -7.7
18 New Jersey -4.1 7.5 -8.4
19 South Carolina -4.1 5.0 -5.1
20 Illinois -4.0 7.1 -7.1
21 Ohio -4.0 4.7 -6.1
22 Delaware -3.9 6.4 -6.0
23 Massachusetts -3.8 6.5 -9.0
24 Minnesota -3.7 4.1 -6.9
25 Kentucky -3.7 4.7 -5.6
26 Missouri -3.6 4.1 -4.8
27 North Dakota -3.5 4.2 -6.7
28 Texas -3.5 6.7 -4.3
29 New Mexico -3.1 8.2 -6.7
30 Indiana -3.1 3.9 -5.5
31 Montana -3.0 3.7 -3.1
32 Kansas -3.0 3.5 -4.6
33 Florida -2.9 4.8 -5.2
34 Oregon -2.8 6.0 -6.6
35 Mississippi -2.8 6.2 -4.3
36 California -2.8 8.3 -7.4
37 Alabama -2.7 3.6 -4.3
38 Maryland -2.6 6.2 -6.8
39 Arkansas -2.6 4.4 -3.0
40 Georgia -2.5 4.3 -4.6
41 North Carolina -2.5 5.0 -4.3
42 Virginia -2.5 4.7 -5.0
43 Iowa -2.3 3.8 -5.1
44 Nebraska -2.1 2.8 -3.6
45 South Dakota -1.7 2.8 -3.4
46 Colorado -1.5 6.4 -5.2
47 Idaho -1.1 3.1 -0.7
48 Arizona -0.9 6.7 -3.1
49 Washington -0.7 5.5 -5.3
50 Utah -0.1 2.8 -1.6