Tourist hotspots, energy producers to sustain largest economic blow from outbreak

As the economic toll of the covid-19 epidemic cascades throughout the economy, few places will remain unscathed but a new analysis reveals which metro areas will be hurt the most. Much of the nation’s southern tier, including tourist destinations and major energy producers, are the most vulnerable places to economic shock from the pandemic, according to Brookings researchers.

The researchers mapped the presence of five industries directly at risk — mining/oil and gas, transportation, employment services, travel arrangements, and leisure and hospitality — as a share of local economies. More than 24.2 million Americans work in those sectors, accounting for 16.5 percent of all jobs.

Three major energy producers in Texas — Midland, Odessa and Laredo — along with one in neighboring Louisiana, Houma-Thibodaux, ranked in the top 10 most exposed metro areas. Midland topped the list with 42.5 percent of its workforce in the five high-risk industries.

Many of the other places that are most vulnerable to a covid-19 slowdown have high job shares in the leisure and hospitality sector — Kahului, Hawaii; Atlantic City, N.J.; Ocean City, N.J.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Alabama.

The cities that are the most protected from the pandemic include older, manufacturing-heavy industrial communities, agricultural towns and some already-distressed places, according to the post. Two agricultural communities, Madera, Calif., and Yakima, Wash., are the least vulnerable with less than 10 percent of their workforce in industries facing a severe disruption.

Las Vegas is the most exposed major metro area, followed by Orlando, Fla., New Orleans, Honolulu and Oklahoma City. All are heavily reliant on the tourism/hospitality or energy sectors. Among the largest metro areas that are somewhat shielded are a number of tech-oriented university towns. Provo, Utah, ranks as the least exposed large metro, followed by Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.; Hartford, Conn.; Albany, N.Y.; and San Jose, Calif.

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