Special Report

How COVID-19 Affected New Jersey'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.

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.

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