Impact of COVID on Metro Employment: From Treading Water to Sinking

By at 1 October, 2020, 9:37 am

by Raymond J. Keating-

According to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the story on employment by metropolitan areas across the nation ranges from treading water to pretty much sinking.

Given how bad this pandemic economy has been, it’s somewhat surprising that in 135 out of 389 metropolitan areas across the country, nonfarm employment effectively was “essentially unchanged” from August 2019 to August 2020. That’s a little better than one in three metro areas coming in flat over the past year in terms of employment.

Under normal circumstances, of course, that would be bad news. But these are not normal times.

That also means, however, that employment over the past year was down in almost two-thirds of metro areas, i.e., declining in 254 areas out of those 389 metro areas.

The BLS reported: “In August, 254 metropolitan areas had over-the-year decreases in nonfarm payroll employment and 135 areas were essentially unchanged. The largest over-the-year employment decreases occurred in New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (-1,176,100), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (-633,000), and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (-366,600). The largest over-the-year percentage losses in employment occurred in Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI (-28.1 percent), Ocean City, NJ (-25.4 percent), and Barnstable Town, MA (-18.7 percent).”

As for the largest areas, BLS noted: “Over the year, nonfarm employment declined in all of the 51 metropolitan areas with a 2010 Census population of 1 million or more. The largest over-the-year percentage decreases in employment in these large metropolitan areas occurred in Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (-12.2 percent), Rochester, NY (-11.9 percent), and New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA (-11.8 percent).”

While there is widespread suffering during this changing period, it’s worth noting that a handful – to be exact, it’s 14 – of the “unchanged” metro areas actually experienced some slight growth in payroll employment over the past year (from August 2019 to August 2020):

Idaho Falls, ID (+4.4 percent)

Sierra Vista-Douglas, AZ (+4.2 percent)

Ames, IA (+2.3 percent)

Logan, UT (+1.5 percent)

College Station-Bryan, TX (+1.4 percent)

Monroe, LA (+0.8 percent)

Twin Falls, ID (+0.8 percent)

Ogden-Clearfield, UT (+0.7 percent)

Hinesville, GA ( +0.5 percent)

Provo-Orem, UT (+0.4 percent)

Jonesboro, AR (+0.3 percent)

The Villages, FL (+0.3 percent)

Rome, GA (+0.2 percent)

Boise City, ID (+0.1 percent)

Of course, local officials have a great deal of work to do in terms of making sure that their regions, cities and towns are offering improved policy climates in which entrepreneurs, businesses and investors can grow local economies through new and existing businesses and jobs.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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