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Las Vegas and Orlando Will Be Hit Hard By the Coronavirus

Justin Fox
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Las Vegas and Orlando Will Be Hit Hard By the Coronavirus

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The Great Coronavirus Shutdown of 2020 is hammering lots of industries, but leisure and hospitality is probably the hardest hit. This is a big deal because (until a week or so ago, at least), restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos, theaters, museums, gyms, sports teams and the rest employed 16.9 million people, or 11% of the U.S. nonfarm payroll workforce, up from 9% in 2000 and 7.4% in 1980. That’s more than manufacturing, construction and even health care (albeit just barely on that last one, and probably not for long).

These leisure and hospitality jobs are everywhere, but some parts of the country are a lot more dependent on them than others. The darker the blue in this map, the bigger leisure and hospitality share’s of total employment.

The data here are a few months old because they’re from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which offers more detailed local numbers than the BLS’s monthly employment reports, but comes out with a bit of a lag. To focus on the darkest-blue spot on the map, 25.2% of Nevada’s jobs were in leisure and hospitality as of September versus 11.1% nationally. Divide the first by the second and you get an employment location quotient of 2.26, meaning effectively that Nevadans are 2.26 times more likely to work in the industry than Americans overall are. It also means that    with the Economic Policy Institute this week forecasting a 5.3% decline in private-sector employment there by summer versus 4% nationwide.

Here are the metropolitan areas most likely to be hardest hit. The list is heavy on beach resorts. It would be even heavier on them if this were measured as of July or August instead of September, but September probably gives a clearer picture of the industry’s year-round impact.

Now for just the large metropolitan areas, by which I mean those with populations of 1 million or more (although as noted in the chart I made an exception for Honolulu). Also, I only included nine metro areas in the table because there were four tied for 10th.

One thing to note here is that apart from Las Vegas, Orlando, New Orleans and Honolulu, large metro areas don’t diverge all that much from the national average in leisure and hospitality employment. The large metro area with the lowest location quotient is Hartford, Connecticut, at 0.76. Another thing to note is that leisure and hospitality jobs don’t pay a lot. This means the workers are unlikely to have a lot of savings or other resources to help them get by (paid leave was available to only 33.4% of workers in the industry as of 2017-2018), but also means it shouldn’t cost all that much to make them whole.

Finally, here’s what it looks like by county.(1) Where there are beaches or mountains or lakes, basically, there will be major employment loss.

Regular readers of this column are aware that I love digging around in regional economic data. Mostly I find it fun, and revealing. This is revealing, too, of course, but it’s not so much fun. I don’t doubt that, over the coming weeks and months, we will find less costly ways of slowing the spread of the coronavirus than recommending that people stay home all the time. But it seems like places with economies that depend heavily on people congregating, often in close quarters, are going to continue to suffer until we’ve developed either a vaccine or herd immunity.

(1) If you're wondering about the few blank counties, the BLS suppresses local industry data when there are so few employers that you could back employment and wage numbers for individual establishments.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”

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