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Richard B. Freeman
Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
Jesse Rothstein
Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley
Claudia Sahm
Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
Terri Gerstein
Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
Hilary Hoynes
Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
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COVID-19 has led to stunning economic disruption. As infection hotspots pop up around the country, states have grappled with excruciating choices between protecting public health and bolstering the economy. Optimizing for both has proven difficult, if not impossible.

Early and stringent state and local restrictions led to higher rates of unemployment in the months following lockdowns. Reopening businesses and recovering jobs depend on more than federal and local policies. Researchers at the Harvard Business School studied factors in reopening, from features of the business such as whether it involves physical proximity to others or serves older customers to external factors such as local COVID-19 case rates and prevalent political preference. They found one of the most important factors was business owner expectations of customer demand.

In the trade-off between public health and economic recovery, public policy and public confidence play important roles.

The Cost of Job Recovery

To understand more about the balance of economic recovery and public health, MoneyGeek analyzed the rate of case growth and deaths versus the rate of jobs recovered to better understand the cost of recovered jobs. MoneyGeek also analyzed the results of the last four presidential elections to determine if a state's political leaning showcased any meaningful differences in COVID-19 cases and deaths compared to job recovery. States were defined by color based on the results of the past four presidential elections. States where the Republican or Democratic candidate won in at least three of the four elections are defined as red or blue, respectively. For states where there was a 2-2 tie, the current governor's party affiliation was used to classify the state as either red or blue.

In terms of job recovery, red states recovered 35% more jobs than blue states — 65% compared to 48%. However, red-state recovery rates came at a higher price, with 99% more COVID-19 cases and 78% more deaths per recovered job than blue states.

On a more detailed level, MoneyGeek reviewed each state's cost of recovery and recovery rates. The following data shows the analysis for each state as well as the state's political affiliation.

Political Party, Jobs Recovered and Deaths per Jobs by State
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States With the Most Jobs Recovered

In July 2020, Michigan had recovered 72% of jobs lost since February, or 932,000 jobs. Nearly 31 states had recovered at least 50% of jobs lost, including Nevada, Michigan and Indiana, which were among states with the most losses.

Economists project that the U.S. will likely have prolonged elevated unemployment, even if all furloughed workers were recalled to work.

States That Have Recovered the Most Jobs To Date

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States With the Most Jobs Lost

Initial unemployment claims spiked at nearly seven million early on. Despite steady declines since the peak, new and continuing claims continue to dwarf pre-pandemic levels.

The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helped increase businesses’ chances of survival.

States with the most job losses included those with strict lockdowns and the greatest reliance on the hardest-hit industries such as food and accommodation and arts, entertainment and recreation. For every 100 jobs lost in these sectors, well over 100 more jobs will be lost due to ripple effects across industries.

Despite resources that soften the economic blow, consumers in hard-hit states and industries may need to take stock of their finances and develop new strategies.

States From Most To Least Jobs Lost To Date

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Expert Insight on COVID-19 Employment Shifts

MoneyGeek reached out to nine experts to weigh in on the employment shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read their insightful answers to these five questions below.

  1. What role has the fiscal stimulus had on job loss and recovery? What impact has it had on states, businesses and individuals?

    Fiscal stimulus has largely been successful in protecting most families' incomes, even as people have been temporarily laid off or permanently lost their jobs. The evidence shows that people are spending their unemployment insurance checks and stimulus checks. This has meant that even though there is a very deep recession, consumer spending has nearly recovered. It has limited but not eliminated the ripple effects from the sectors that were directly affected (e.g., restaurants and travel) to other sectors.

    The significant bounce in the non-farm payrolls data in May and June suggested that some of the fiscal policy measures enacted were working; a number of hourly services workers who were initially laid off during the crisis had been brought back onto payrolls by businesses as part of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). We may see a reversal in July as firms run out of PPP money, even as the time they’ve been granted to use it has been extended. When this happens, they will have to lay off workers to stay afloat. Beyond the PPP loans, U.S. labor market policy focuses on supporting those who have lost their jobs rather than trying to prevent job losses and maintain a connection between workers and employers, which is the policy goal in most of Europe. Unemployment has therefore risen far more in the U.S. than in Europe.

    One of the primary effects of the fiscal stimulus has been to protect equity values. At the same time, those most economically vulnerable on our economy's front lines have continued to be massively impacted negatively, with ongoing record level unemployment claims and stubbornly high levels of ongoing unemployment even as parts of the economy have moved towards reopening.

    An issue with the PPP program is that the strongest firms were likely to get the loans (at least in the first tranche), which reduces what you might think of the likely employment effects.

    The stimulus kept spending going when it might have collapsed, but it was too short term and focused on the wrong problem. If we could have had a fast recovery by conquering the disease, almost all furloughed workers would be back at work, and the stimulus would have tied people and small businesses over for two to three months. But without something else, I would expect a slow, seven to ten year regaining of jobs.

    This is a pandemic. It is a severe recession. What we know — and this is from forthcoming research of mine with colleagues at the University of Michigan — is that 40% of American families have lost income since the crisis began, and 20% tell us that someone has lost a job in their family. We have an income crisis because people have lost jobs. People have had their wages and hours cut. Families do not have money. They cannot feed their families or pay their rent. There's an incredible amount of distress. And the federal government is the only institution in the country that can step in and give people money, and they need money. The CARES Act was over $2 trillion and gave money. Unfortunately, a lot of that money is out the door. The rebates were great; they put $3,400 in the pockets of families with two parents and two kids. That's real money for a lot of Americans. That was good, but you can only spend money once. If they're going to spend it, it's spent. The $600 extra a week for those getting jobless benefits helped too. But that only ran out at the end of July. It was $2,400 this month. Those families already struggling with one fewer paycheck will not have that extra money this month.

    The relief that Congress has done in the crisis was very effective. It was important to help people hardest hit and to help everyone. We've got a lot of problems here, and policymakers in D.C. must do more. They must send out another rebate. They must extend the $600 per week for the jobless. And the thing that has not been in any other packages is money for state and local governments. Communities are in an absolute budget crisis. Unlike the federal government, state and local governments have to balance their budgets. Right now, we're seeing mass layoffs, including teachers. Whether classes are in-person or online or hybrid, there will be fewer teachers in the classroom in many places. We're seeing essential services cut because states have to do something to make ends meet. Balanced budgets make state governments a lot like households. The federal government is not like a household. They just print money. It is taxpayers' money, so Congress needs to be good stewards of that money. But right now, a good steward of the taxpayer dollar is getting money out into pockets of families and small business owners and communities, so that next year and the ten years after this year are better than they are right now.

    The CARES Act and the Families First Act had very important impacts on individuals. The unemployment insurance expansions to include gig economy workers and the $600 top-up to state weekly benefits were absolutely critical to make up for the lost earnings due to job loss. The increase in food benefits — through SNAP benefits and the replacement of school meals with the pandemic EBT — have also been important. These programs do not reach everyone — despite this food insecurity rates have skyrocketed in the US. Further, with the expiration of the $600 top-up to unemployment insurance, tremendous hardship is going to result. Most states have very limited earnings replacement with their unemployment insurance systems and the $600 was central in keeping people afloat.

    The federal action to help states has been minimal — and this is going to result in a deepening and extension of the recession. The lack of action now is turning the public health emergency into a real economic emergency.

  2. What else could government officials do to balance economic recovery with public health?

    The best basis for sustained economic performance is better public health. Better public health will require additional limitations on some activities (bars, in-restaurant dining and large indoor gatherings), wearing masks and more effective testing. There is little that monetary or fiscal policy can do to solve the failures of public health policy.

    I don't think there is a balance between the economic recovery and pursuing public health goals — we will not have the former without the latter. Microdata produced by Raj Chetty et al. at Harvard suggests that spending patterns for those states that opened first closely follow those states that opened up last. It is not the governor saying people should behave normally and visit bars and restaurants that matter. What will determine the pace of the economic recovery is how comfortable people feel going out and spending money, which will be determined by the virus and our management of it.

    As we talk about public health in the context of COVID-19, we have been speaking of the dangers of the virus spreading. There is another critical component of public health, which is that of the social determinants of health — specifically, when an individual is in poverty, that individual is more likely to have bad health outcomes. There is good evidence to suggest that 85% of health outcomes are driven by socioeconomic factors and only 15% by the delivery of care through our healthcare system. Nevertheless, when we think about that tension today, we talk simplistically about "reopening the economy." The reality is that the economy as it existed before March did not provide pathways to economic stability — and the better health outcomes that come with them — to a huge percentage of our fellow citizens. With the over $2 trillion we have spent since March on stimulus, we could have employed every single person out of work at $15 per hour plus benefits plus $10,000 a year in money for apprenticeships, mentorships and training to route folks into growing careers and industries, and still had over $1 trillion left over.

    There is no way to speed up recovery without solving the virus problem. If they truly want people to work and kids to go to school, they would pour giant sums of money into restructuring workplaces to be safer, building new schools and offices with desks far apart, all kinds of specialized cleaning, have everyone in masks and so on.

    Governments must work in tandem. We need a national plan on how to get the pandemic under control and keep people safe. And we need a national plan on how to support families, communities and business owners in crisis. We have not had a national plan on the pandemic. Right now, we don't have a national plan for fighting the recession. And we cannot ask states and localities to figure it out on their own, which has been how the federal government has gone about the pandemic the whole time.

    We need a federal response on both. The economy won't get better until the pandemic is under control. There's also an aspect of a recession when people get freaked out and are scared, so they tend to pull back. They don't want to spend, and they don't invest in things. Every time the virus flares up, we see consumer sentiment tank again. When case counts were coming down a few months ago, people were getting somewhat more positive. It is clear now that we are backsliding. And that backslide is tied to the fact that the cases started rising and states had to start shutting down again.

    So these two responses have got to go in tandem, it's fighting the virus that leads. But as we're fighting COVID-19, we have to be trying to make people whole or make them so they can live their lives and feed their kids. The federal government has to do it.

    Strong enforcement of workplace safety and health laws is critical. If we want a lasting recovery — not stop-and-start, open-and-close — we need to ensure that workers will be safe to prevent workplace clusters and community spread. This means creating and enforcing clear mandatory COVID-specific requirements for employers to take specific actions like providing masks and personal protective equipment, enabling social distancing at worksites, ensuring handwashing and sanitation at work and informing workers and the health department if an employee has tested positive. So far, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has really fallen on the job. The agency has largely issued guidance that employers should "strive" to implement if possible, and it has only issued four citations after receiving thousands of complaints. If we want a real economic recovery, we desperately need OSHA to step up and do its job.

    In the meantime, some states and localities have taken meaningful action. A number of governors have issued executive orders protecting workers and the public. The state of Virginia created a COVID-specific workplace safety standard, and Oregon is in the process of doing the same. Chicago and Philadelphia passed new anti-retaliation laws, which will help workers report violations without fear of being fired, and several jurisdictions passed paid sick leave laws that fill in the gaps left by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will allow sick people to stay home and not spread the disease. Some states, like Minnesota and New York, are requiring employers to actually think systematically and write down a workplace-specific plan about how they will structure their operations to avoid the spread of the virus. For the sake of public health and economic recovery, more states and localities should take action to make sure people are safe on the job.

    We can’t get the economy going until we get the pandemic under control. Economists have said this from the beginning. If we get cases down then we can use tracking and tracing. Now there are too many outbreaks to do that effectively. This will hold back the ability for the economy to recover.

  3. Given the ripple effect that jobs gained or lost in one industry have on other industries, which sectors are you most interested in or concerned about?

    I am still most concerned with the directly affected sectors, like restaurants, live entertainment and travel. I am also worried about smaller businesses in general and particularly the places that are both dependent on these industries and have large second waves (like Florida and Nevada).

    I’m most concerned about manufacturing jobs, which have long been whittled away by automation, because they are generally high wage, high hour jobs that offer a higher standard of living to workers. They also have supply chains that may be disrupted in this crisis, hurting other companies and the associated suppliers.

    Most inevitable of the job losses coming is in brick-and-mortar retail stores. We’re over-stored, malls are collapsing as anchor tenants go bankrupt and shopping increasingly moves online.

    The work I do touches health care and technology the closest. Both are still desperately in need of talented people to fill roles such as nurses, software engineers and caregivers. None of these roles require a four-year degree, even though many hiring managers believe they do. At the same time, we know that retail and bank tellers' roles and certain roles in hospitality may be shrinking in number or stagnant in income. Yet, few structures exist today to enable movement from the latter parts of the economy to the former parts. Arena is one small piece of that, in that it identifies folks from shrinking parts of the economy who would thrive in health care roles, but we as a society could do so much more to make those pathways viable, scalable and effective.

    This paper analyzes “connective tissue” issues and indicates that some industries will be more important for spillovers. Supplier industries or industries that refer a significant share of customers to others are most important.

    The biggest job losses were in hospitality, tourism and travel. Without getting a vaccine, it's hard to see them recovering to where they were. But it is the loss of blue-collar jobs and service occupations that we should be most concerned about. These workers cannot work at home. They lost jobs massively in the shutdown, which produced ripple effects elsewhere. Even as states weakened the restrictions on going out, many people will continue to self-protect where they interact with others. If the demand for restaurants, bars and entertainment will not recover, we need to find new productive activities for those workers.

    This idea of a ripple effect is really important, especially at the economic level. The rebates and the extra jobless benefits help people make ends meet. In addition, it helps keep people employed because if consumers buy food or get takeout from the restaurant, that means that the restaurant can keep someone employed or even call someone back. That's a good thing because if you call the workers back, they get paid and get their benefits back.

    When we went into the recession, it was this downward spiral. People cut back on their spending, businesses had to lay off workers and then those people cut back more. To recover, we must get a positive cycle going, so we do need those ripple effects. We need the spillovers to be positive. For a couple of months, we saw this, and then last month, we had stalled as cases rose. And we're starting to see, for example, in last week's jobless claims, a pretty compelling case of backsliding overall.

    There are sectors that, through this crisis, have done really well, even without endangering people. The construction industry is doing things that are so unlike any recession; they are the hardest hit in most recessions. This recession has been very strange. I go out for walks every day, and most of the workers I see have hard hats on. They're building stuff. A lot of the stay-at-home orders didn't cover construction, and they work outside. It's just a sector that's done better than most.

    I do think it's important to think about sectors. If you work in retail, like in a grocery store, the big chains — the Walmarts, the Targets — the employment there has been good. In a lot of cases, it's expanded. If you want to drive for GrubHub, they're looking for people. The downside of that is the people who work in the grocery stores, they're really exposed to people coming in and getting sick. So you have some people that have kept their jobs, but the jobs aren't safe. It's a very mixed bag. And yet when we step back, many sectors are suffering.

    We have a $20 trillion economy — $15 trillion of it is consumer spending, and about $10 trillion is services. There are a lot of services like recreation and hotels and airlines — these things are not coming back by the end of the year. It'll be well into next year, after a vaccine. And when you think about the big picture, we are still a long way from February 2020, to put it mildly. When we look back, we have seen the peak unemployment rate and the depths of the spending data back in the spring. We fell into the hole really fast. We have seen improvement, but we could see a second dip this fall. We saw improvement, but we were still way down on the whole. I don't personally think February 2020 should be the goal because we ought to do something better in terms of addressing inequalities and structural problems in the economy. But we aren't even close to February 2020.

    It is very likely that many aspects of our economy will become more concentrated – with the large firms more able to weather this economic downturn and the smaller firms going out of business. This has profound impacts on what our main streets look like, but also will lead to lower wages due to monopsony power.

  4. How would you expect state economies to change over time?

    The latest BLS data show the massive heterogeneity across states, with an unemployment rate of 17% in Massachusetts and 4% in Kentucky. The huge discrepancies are likely temporary and reflect the timing of reopening, so I would expect a large reshifting of unemployment rates going forward. The persistent effects are likely to be the largest for tourism-dependent states.

    While we are all talking about the near-term impacts on state budgets devastating the states' ability to navigate the road ahead — without more evident leadership and involvement from the federal government — the question is how will the well-documented trend of metro areas attracting all of the talent and capital on the one side and the rest of us on the other play out. My view is that clustering each state and region's ability to identify unique global competitive strengths and build ecosystems around those strengths that allow each to attract and keep talent and capital will only accelerate in the years ahead. The states that can effectively and aggressively pursue those strategies will thrive, and those that can't will fall further behind.

    At least in the short term, we will likely see migration to jobs that require less physical proximity as those sectors’ customers contract. It means areas heavy with tourism, hotel and personal services will likely suffer. State and local tax revenue will likely be affected, but more so in places that are income or sales tax heavy compared to those with a better mix of the tax base.

    I see 10 years of weak recovery unless we get a vaccine that works or invest massively in rebuilding much of our economy to ensure the safety of workers from this virus or the next one coming down the pike.

    The thing I'm worried most about right now is the budget crisis that state and local governments are facing. They all have balanced budget requirements, and revenues are way down due to COVID — on the order of 20%. They've been holding off balancing their budgets, hoping that the federal government (which can run deficits) would step in with fiscal support. But Congress has failed to pass anything, and if they continue not to act, I expect that over the next several months, we will see states and local governments announce wave after wave of layoffs. Aside from the loss of needed public services, that will create enormous ripple effects: The former public workers will go on unemployment and drastically cut back on their consumption, reducing demand for private-sector goods and services. If that is allowed to happen, it will turn temporary lockdowns into a more conventional, very deep recession, one that will take a long time to recover from.

    States are getting absolutely decimated right now. We saw in the Great Recession that state and local governments did not get enough aid. They did get some aid from Congress, but they didn't get enough help. The teacher layoffs were there then. They were persistent. We saw at least a decade of harm done to communities. In this crisis, no municipality kept their tax revenues up, and their costs to fight the pandemic rose sharply, so that's a big hole. The bounce back in spending is not there. It's not like they're going to make that lost revenue up before the end of the year, they've had to make big cutbacks. And because we do not have a federal response to the pandemic, parts of the country have been hit hard by the pandemic. They have these continue to have extra expenses at the same time they have less revenue.

    Communities differ so much across the country. Many times, it's communities of color — Detroit and New Orleans and Atlanta — these cities that have large Black and brown populations. And the pandemic just went after them. Some communities were in a weaker position to start with. And then this is making it worse, and they don't have the money to dig out of the hole. These are exactly the kinds of conditions that make inequality worse; they make the disparities between the haves and the have nots grow. The likelihood of dying from COVID is so much higher if you are not white. We went from having a health crisis to an economic crisis, and now we have a social justice crisis too. All of these three crises are related. You have got to address all three of them.

    There is a belief — and this actually goes to the craving for normalcy — that if you convince people, "it's okay, don't be afraid," that you can will the economy back into a better place. And the contrary is, if you admit this is really, really bad, then you're going to convince people it's really, really bad and they're going to pull back even more.

    Having been an expert on consumer spending for over a decade, I can attest that confidence effects are real. If people are scared, they hunker down and don't spend. And yet, income is an even bigger deal. You can't just convince people they live in a better world than the world they live in. You can't convince them they have money in their bank accounts. You have to give them money. You have to keep them safe. And then they'll think things are better. If you've done those two things and they're still sad, then you can make your public service announcements. But there are very legitimate reasons for people to be very pessimistic. And the biggest issue I have with the policymakers who are still shooting sunshine is they are raising false hopes. If you're trying to boost confidence, but it is false confidence, people figure that out. You can find people that will talk it all up. Sure they might be right. And I've said through this whole crisis that I'd love to be wrong because it would mean so much less suffering. I have not been wrong.

    We're in this position that there's just no more of this telling people, "It's going to be okay." You have to make it okay. And you can't tell people that they have to solve their own problems. The federal government must step up and lead and then do what they say they're going to do. The American people from day one needed to know that Congress has their back. Every once in a while, Congress has their back, and then Congress sneaks away. This is a sustained effort. And if we don't do this right and don't do it immediately, we will have a mess. And not just at the end of this year, but years from now. This is really, really serious.

    It really depends on whether there is state assistance in the Congressional package. States cannot borrow, the federal government can. It is a central role of government to help states out in these times. And they are not.

    Until there is a treatment or vaccine, everything depends on virus management. I would expect activity to follow confidence, so states with rising new outbreaks will see a drag on confidence and activity even without new lockdown measures. Those states that manage to keep the R rate low should continue to see confidence rise and with it economic activity and job generation.

  5. Is there anything else you see in the state employment/unemployment data that offers insight into what may lie ahead?

    The data makes it clear that the federal policy response needs to be very differentiated by state. Unemployment insurance and state fiscal relief should be related to the magnitude of state unemployment rates, automatically adjusting both across states and over time as these unemployment rates evolve.

    It is hard to extrapolate much into the future with jobs data at the best of times — jobs reports reflect the past rather than being coincident or forward-looking indicators — but even more so in this fast-moving crisis. I think that the Opportunity Insights data, which provides high-frequency spending data (among other things), offers more timely indicators of where jobs will be lost and added. That data shows that we are seeing a rebound in activity in things like white goods, pool installation and landscaping. These are not the areas where most jobs were initially lost (hourly services jobs like waitresses and dry cleaners). This suggests that even though there has been a rebound in consumption, there is a disconnect between where activity was lost and where it has picked up. I would expect that to manifest itself in the labor market as a long, hard slog to get workers back into jobs after the initial quick rebound in May and June.

    Talented economists have fortunately spent countless hours analyzing the data and have given us a range of relevant insights on what they mean. My view is that the continued trend of job loss and labor market disruption is not likely to subside in the coming months. What we are really seeing is an accelerated version of what we have seen for decades — rapid job creation and loss that requires us to think about how to structure our labor market and our economy differently than we have, building it as we have on assumptions about the centrality of manufacturing and industrial job growth from our nation's economy of half a century ago.

    I always look at the insured unemployment rate, which is the number of people getting unemployment insurance. It has been dropping a bit in the past few months, but largely because some folks are being rehired. The only way to get unemployment down to healthy levels is by creating new jobs, and we see very little there.

    We all crave normalcy. I crave it too. It really hits home that in September our kids are not going back in the classroom. It is not normal, what we're living in. I can see, though I disagreed with it, why there was this push to open the schools and get the kids back. Because if that worked, we could say things are getting back to normal. But because we want that so bad, there are decisions made that end up amplifying the pandemic. We see it already with many universities that opened up reversing course and sending students back home.

    It's the same for a small business owner. I can understand owners of restaurants and bars wanting to have people come in and spend, but we can only do that if it's actually safe to do that. We can't just pretend that if we will ourselves into normalcy, that we'll get it. In fact, when we do that in a lot of parts of the country, especially the ones where there's more people, this does not work. Businesses reopened only to shut down again.

    And for financial reasons, everyone needs normalcy, but we won't have it until the virus is under control. And under control is more than just when they start shipping out vaccines. We are going to wear masks in public for a long time. And masks are political in some parts of the country. Until we change our definition of "normal" in the public health sense and take this pandemic seriously, all these attempts to get "back to normal" will blow up in our faces.

    I am concerned that continuing high unemployment rates will lead to higher rates of labor violations, including safety and health, because it will make it harder for workers to speak up. Although it's illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for reporting violations, studies show high rates of such retaliation, even before the pandemic. In a high unemployment situation, the consequences of employer retaliation are even worse because it's more difficult for workers to find a new job. Pre-COVID, there was already a great disparity of bargaining power between employers and workers; that disparity is exacerbated by high unemployment, which may lead to further degraded working conditions. At the same time, the seriousness of COVID-related health risks has also led to an increase in worker organizing and activism. I anticipate and hope that this trend will continue.


  • Jason Furman
    Jason FurmanProfessor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
    Megan Greene
    Megan GreeneSenior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School
    Mike Rosenbaum
    Mike RosenbaumFounder & CEO of Arena
    Christopher T. Stanton
    Christopher T. StantonMarvin Bower Associate Professor
    Richard B. Freeman
    Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
    Claudia Sahm
    Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
  • Hilary Hoynes
    Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
    Terri Gerstein
    Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
    Jesse Rothstein
    Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jason Furman
    Jason FurmanProfessor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
    Megan Greene
    Megan GreeneSenior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School
    Mike Rosenbaum
    Mike RosenbaumFounder & CEO of Arena
    Christopher T. Stanton
    Christopher T. StantonMarvin Bower Associate Professor
    Richard B. Freeman
    Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
    Claudia Sahm
    Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
  • Hilary Hoynes
    Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
    Terri Gerstein
    Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
    Jesse Rothstein
    Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jason Furman
    Jason FurmanProfessor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
    Megan Greene
    Megan GreeneSenior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School
    Mike Rosenbaum
    Mike RosenbaumFounder & CEO of Arena
    Christopher T. Stanton
    Christopher T. StantonMarvin Bower Associate Professor
    Richard B. Freeman
    Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
    Claudia Sahm
    Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
  • Hilary Hoynes
    Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
    Terri Gerstein
    Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
    Jesse Rothstein
    Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jason Furman
    Jason FurmanProfessor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
    Megan Greene
    Megan GreeneSenior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School
    Mike Rosenbaum
    Mike RosenbaumFounder & CEO of Arena
    Christopher T. Stanton
    Christopher T. StantonMarvin Bower Associate Professor
    Richard B. Freeman
    Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
    Claudia Sahm
    Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
  • Hilary Hoynes
    Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
    Terri Gerstein
    Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
    Jesse Rothstein
    Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jason Furman
    Jason FurmanProfessor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
    Megan Greene
    Megan GreeneSenior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School
    Mike Rosenbaum
    Mike RosenbaumFounder & CEO of Arena
    Christopher T. Stanton
    Christopher T. StantonMarvin Bower Associate Professor
    Richard B. Freeman
    Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
    Claudia Sahm
    Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
  • Hilary Hoynes
    Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
    Terri Gerstein
    Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
    Jesse Rothstein
    Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jason Furman
    Jason FurmanProfessor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
    Megan Greene
    Megan GreeneSenior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School
    Mike Rosenbaum
    Mike RosenbaumFounder & CEO of Arena
    Christopher T. Stanton
    Christopher T. StantonMarvin Bower Associate Professor
    Richard B. Freeman
    Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
    Claudia Sahm
    Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
  • Hilary Hoynes
    Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
    Terri Gerstein
    Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
    Jesse Rothstein
    Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jason Furman
    Jason FurmanProfessor of the Practice of Economic Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
    Megan Greene
    Megan GreeneSenior Fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School
    Mike Rosenbaum
    Mike RosenbaumFounder & CEO of Arena
    Christopher T. Stanton
    Christopher T. StantonMarvin Bower Associate Professor
    Richard B. Freeman
    Richard B. FreemanFaculty Co-Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School; Co-Director, Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities; and Herbert Ascherman Professor of Economics, Harvard University
    Claudia Sahm
    Claudia SahmDirector of Macroeconomic Policy, Washington Center for Equitable Growth and Former Section Chief in the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs at the Federal Reserve Board
  • Hilary Hoynes
    Hilary HoynesProfessor of Public Policy and Economics, Haas Distinguished Chair in Economic Disparities, and Co-director, Berkeley Opportunity Lab, University of California Berkeley
    Terri Gerstein
    Terri GersteinDirector, State and Local Enforcement Project, Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, and Senior Fellow, Economic Policy Institute
    Jesse Rothstein
    Jesse RothsteinProfessor of Public Policy and Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Berkeley

Finding the Balance Between Public Health and Economic Recovery

On the tightrope between public health and economic survival, states must find a safe balance. Politics, public opinion, science and pragmatism are all at play. Regulation and consumer confidence may be the most potent ingredients in states’ economic recovery.

Though the relationship between COVID-19 cases and job losses appears linear, some states are over- and under-performing the trends. Governors, local leaders and business owners can learn from those who are most effectively balancing economic recovery and mitigating health risks.

Despite near-term economic hardship caused by restrictive state and local policies, controlling the virus's spread is likely to lead to more sustainable, robust economic recovery. Some industries and areas dependent on them will face the longest path back to economic health.

Methodology

The MoneyGeek data analysis team examined monthly employment data by state from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and COVID-19 cases and deaths from Johns Hopkins’ dataset.

The team identified the lowest monthly employment number since February 2020 versus February's employment levels to calculate the total lost jobs due to the coronavirus. The number of recovered jobs is calculated as the gain in jobs from the lowest employment month to the current month. A state with zero jobs recovered indicates that the current month is their lowest month.

MoneyGeek identified each state's lowest month for employment since the start of the pandemic, then added three weeks to the 12th day of that month to reflect the BLS employment data collection timeline. The growth rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths was then assessed through August 2nd, three weeks after July 12th, the last month of employment data available at the time of publication.

Data Definitions

Cases Per 100 Jobs: Reported COVID-19 cases (see methodology above) divided by Jobs Recovered multiplied by 100.

Deaths Per 10,000 Jobs: Reported COVID-19 related deaths (see COVID-19 data methodology above) divided by Jobs Recovered multiplied by 10,000.

Low Month: The state's month of lowest employment since February 2020.

Lost Jobs: The decline in jobs between February 2020 and either the Low Month or the most recent month for which there is data, depending on how it's used in that section.

Jobs Recovered: The difference in jobs from the current period to the jobs in the Low Month.

Jobs Recovered (%): Jobs Recovered divided by the absolute value of Lost Jobs from February to the Low Month.

Political Party Voting History: Red and blue labels were used to define each state by the voting history in the past four presidential elections. States where the republican candidate won 3 out of the 4 elections were labeled as red and states where the Democratic candidate won three out of the four elections were labeled as blue. States that had a 2-2 tie were defined by the current governor's party affiliation.

Recovered Jobs as % of Feb Jobs: Jobs Recovered divided by the February 2020 jobs as reported by the BLS. This measure is used to assess the impact of the recovered jobs.

About the Author


Deb Gordon is author of "The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto (Praeger 2020)" about consumer markets in health care based on research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. She previously held executive roles in health care companies. She has published in the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics and TheHill. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow, a former Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree and a volunteer in MIT's Delta V start-up accelerator. She earned a B.A. in bioethics from Brown University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.


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