Special Report

How COVID-19 Affected Tennessee'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.

Tennessee’s GDP fell by 4.9% in 2020. The state went from having the 19th largest economy in the country in 2019 with a GDP of $328.4 billion to the 20th largest in 2020 with a GDP of $312.4 billion. The transportation and warehousing and educational and healthcare services sectors posed considerable drags on the state economy, but the largest detractor from growth was the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services sector that alone accounted for a 1.7 percentage point drag on GDP.

While economic output fell precipitously in Tennessee in 2020, the contraction was not felt as strongly in the job market. Employment in the state fell by just 4.0% last year, compared to the 5.8% decline nationwide.

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