Employment Recovery Among Metros Remains Uneven

While job recovery has slowed in recent months, a handful of markets are close to complete recovery.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S economy lost roughly 14 million jobs between February and April, contracting the nation’s total job base by 13.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was the nation’s steepest workforce decline since the Great Depression. Since bottoming in April, however, the U.S. economy has recovered a little over half of those lost jobs. As of September, after five months of recovery, the U.S. is nearly 7 million jobs (or 6.5%) short of the total February job base.

Some individual markets, however, are nearly fully recovered. Areas where the total workforce is less than 2% below February levels are Salt Lake City and Indianapolis, while Kansas City and Virginia Beach employment totals are still shy by about 3.5%. As of September, the workforce in each of these markets was roughly 20,000 to 30,000 jobs under pre-pandemic levels. What has helped these markets achieve this status was not necessarily the recent gains, but the mild losses seen between February and April. Each of these areas lost fewer than 120,000 jobs during the COVID-19 downturn.

Markets that are 3.6% to 4% away from full recovery are Denver, Cincinnati and Dallas. Losses were deeper in these areas, with downturns of about 150,000 to 250,000 jobs between February and April, but the recovery was also bigger. While Denver and Cincinnati are roughly 40,000 to 55,000 jobs away from full recovery, however, the sizable Dallas job base still has to make up over 100,000 jobs to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

Just 4.1% to 4.4% away from February totals are the job bases in Atlanta, Austin and St. Louis. Atlanta saw one of the steepest declines nationwide between February and April, with a loss of over 318,000 jobs. But over 63% of those jobs have been recovered. Still, like Dallas, there are still more than 100,000 jobs yet to be recovered in the large Atlanta workforce.

On the other hand, some economic recoveries are taking longer. Most of these are large gateway markets that have suffered the most during the COVID-19 economic crisis, and some have a large base of Leisure and Hospitality Services jobs, which were also disproportionately affected.

Las Vegas is the nation’s least recovered economy, with an employment base that is still 11.8% below pre-pandemic levels. With its sizable base of hospitality jobs, Las Vegas lost over 23% of its workforce – one of the steepest declines nationwide – between February and April. While the market has recovered about half of those losses thus far, a deficit of over 120,000 jobs remains.

New York is still 11.3% away from full recovery, with 817,800 jobs left to make up from the downturn. That’s not surprising, as among the nation’s largest 50 apartment markets, New York took the worst hit between February and April, losing nearly 1.4 million jobs. However, this market has also seen the quickest recovery between April and September, regaining 577,500 jobs since April.

Orlando and Oakland have seen some of the slowest economic recoveries in the nation since April, leaving the workforces in these markets 11.1% below pre-pandemic levels. Orlando and Oakland both lost about 180,000 jobs between February and April. Less than 30% of those jobs have been regained in these markets, leaving deficits of 130,000 to 150,000 jobs.

The Los Angeles workforce is still 10.9% below February levels, with over 500,000 jobs left to make up from the downturn. That’s one of the biggest deficits in the nation, second only to New York. This market saw one of the nation’s steepest declines when COVID-19 hit, with a loss of over 716,000 jobs. Again, this performance was second-worst only to the losses seen in New York.

Click here to download the data for each of the 50 major metros.