Coronavirus recession to hit over 24 million workers hardest: study

Five industries will be particularly hard hit in the event of a coronavirus-caused recession, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. And a recession caused by COVID-19 will impact 24.2 million American workers across the country. 

Using analysis from Moody’s Analytics, Brookings studied the impact to workers in the mining/oil and gas, transportation, employment services, travel arrangements, and leisure and hospitality sectors. 

Industries most at risk

In total, these five vulnerable sectors accounted for 16.5% of all American workers, or 24.2 million employees in total. The leisure and hospitality industry has the plurality of workers among these five at-risk sectors, with some 16.3 million employed in this space. Workers in this industry represent just over 10% of all American workers. 

Transportation and employment services represent roughly 5% of all workers combined, a total of some seven million. 

But what’s more, the study found, is that given the workers’ concentration in some cities, the potential disruption to those industries will be felt unequally across the nation. More than 40% of the workers in just two cities are employed by these hardest hit sectors, while in another three cities, over 30% of the workers who live there are at risk. 

“The most affected places are a who’s who of energy towns and major resort, leisure, and amusement destinations across the nation,” the report noted.

The top 15 and bottom 5 cities hardest hit by COVID-19 by share of jobs in most at risk industries.

Workers in Midland, Texas, could be slammed by a coronavirus recession the most, as 42.5% of the workers there are employed in one of the five “most at-risk” industries. The metro area of Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, Hawaii, was second, with just over 40% of workers there working in the at-risk sectors. Rounding out the top five are Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.; Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, Nev.; and Odessa, Texas. More than 30% of the workers in these areas are employed in the most at-risk industries.  

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Traders work in front of a board displaying the chart of Germany's share index DAX at the stock exchange in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on February 28, 2020. - Stock markets plunged further Friday, February 28, 2020, with equities on course for the largest weekly drop since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago on fears that the coronavirus could devastate the world economy, while oil prices tanked as well. (Photo by Daniel ROLAND / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL ROLAND/AFP via Getty Images)
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Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo on February 28, 2020. - Tokyo's key Nikkei index plunged nearly three percent at the open on February 28 after US and European sell-offs with investors worried about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo on February 28, 2020. - Tokyo's key Nikkei index plunged nearly three percent at the open on February 28 after US and European sell-offs with investors worried about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo on February 28, 2020. - Tokyo's key Nikkei index plunged nearly three percent at the open on February 28 after US and European sell-offs with investors worried about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 27: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on February 27, 2020 in New York City. With concerns growing about how the coronavirus might affect the economy, stocks fell for the fourth straight day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost almost 1200 points on Thursday. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)
Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on February 27, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. - Wall Street stocks opened sharply lower, joining a sell-off in most global bourses on fears the coronavirus will grow into a significant international health crisis. About five minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 percent, or about 480 points. The blue-chip index has fallen the last five days. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on February 27, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. - Wall Street stocks opened sharply lower Thursday, joining a sell-off in most global bourses on fears the coronavirus will grow into a significant international health crisis. About five minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 percent, or about 480 points. The blue-chip index has fallen the last five days. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on February 27, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. - Wall Street stocks opened sharply lower, joining a sell-off in most global bourses on fears the coronavirus will grow into a significant international health crisis. About five minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 percent, or about 480 points. The blue-chip index has fallen the last five days. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on February 27, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. - Wall Street stocks opened sharply lower Thursday, joining a sell-off in most global bourses on fears the coronavirus will grow into a significant international health crisis. About five minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 percent, or about 480 points. The blue-chip index has fallen the last five days. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on February 27, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. - Wall Street stocks opened sharply lower Thursday, joining a sell-off in most global bourses on fears the coronavirus will grow into a significant international health crisis. About five minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 percent, or about 480 points. The blue-chip index has fallen the last five days. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on February 27, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. - Wall Street stocks opened sharply lower Thursday, joining a sell-off in most global bourses on fears the coronavirus will grow into a significant international health crisis. About five minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.8 percent, or about 480 points. The blue-chip index has fallen the last five days. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)
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A pedestrian stands in front of an electronic quotation board displaying share prices of the Nikkei 225 Index in Tokyo on February 26, 2020. - Tokyo stocks opened lower on February 26 extending losses on Wall Street, as the coronavirus continued to spread and public officials warned of the increasing likelihood of a pandemic. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
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While workers in Midland and Odessa are employed in the energy sectors primarily, the leisure, hospitality, and travel industries are the biggest employers in the other metros among the top five. 

Brookings noted other noteworthy tourist destinations in the U.S. like Ocean City, N.J., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Flagstaff, Ariz., are also vulnerable. 

“The same pattern holds across larger cities,” the report said. “Among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, Las Vegas is most exposed, followed by Orlando, Fla., the theme park capital of the country. Rounding out the top five in this group are New Orleans, which has ties to both the energy and tourism/hospitality sectors, Honolulu, and Oklahoma City.”

Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance

Conversely, the Brookings report found, cities that are likely to be “least directly affected” by COVID-19 are “a diverse group consisting of older, manufacturing-heavy industrial cities, agricultural towns, and some already-distressed places.”

At the bottom of the Brookings list were the agricultural towns of Madera, Calif., and Yakima, Wash. With less than 10% of their workforces in the most-affected industries, the metros of Madera and Yakima are the two least exposed in the country.

Negotiating stimulus

Currently, the Senate is negotiating on a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package. Senate Democrats blocked the measure due to a lack of worker protections inside the bill.

The stimulus plan includes $500 billion in direct payments to people earning less than $75,000 a year, $350 billion in loans to small businesses, and another $500 billion to bailout hard-hit industries like airlines. 

Extra funds would be allocated toward unemployment insurance expansion, drug development, and money for hospitals. 

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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