A new WalletHub ranking found Georgia to be among states least vulnerable to the economic downturn expected as a result of the coronavirus. That’s in part because the state is relatively less dependent on the hospitality industry than others, although many hotels are empty and workers are losing their jobs. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder
Georgia is about to find out how many people will miss their April rent and mortgage payments as thousands of workers lost their jobs already to the coronavirus economic shutdown.
Georgia academic economists are predicting the state is particularly vulnerable to a downturn due to its dependence on the travel and hospitality industry. Already, Georgia businesses are announcing layoffs, particularly in the service and hospitality industry. And Jeffrey Dorfman, the state’s top economist says he can’t envision a response to Georgia’s public health crisis that doesn’t cause some economic damage.
Now a new WalletHub ranking offers a sliver of hope for Georgians bracing for the worst. Georgia is the state with the economy least exposed to the coronavirus fallout, according to the WalletHub ranking published today.
What is WalletHub considering that economic experts closer to home are not?
Of the 50 states and District of Columbia, the WalletHub ranking found Georgia to have the least vulnerability to its “high impact industries and workforce.” And while the state came in at No. 18 for its share of employment in the hospitality and marketing businesses, the state ranked No. 40 in the vulnerability of its arts, entertainment and recreation workforce.
Hotel workers are feeling the sting of layoffs. And no doubt musicians, movie theater owners and others in the entertainment industry are feeling financially threatened now. But the WalletHub methodology weights those cultural essentials by their share of Georgia’s Gross Domestic Product, which places their economic risk to the state overall at No. 44, well behind top states Vermont, Florida and Hawaii.
Explaining its methodology, WalletHub says it gives double weight to accommodation and food services and arts and entertainment, categorized as high-risk industries and measured by share of Gross Domestic Product.
Georgia also gets high marks as more prepared than most for the new work-from-home economy, according to the rankings. Georgia workers are considered more ready for the digital economy, to be able to work from home and have access to paid sick leave.
And the state’s own fiscal prudence in recent years should provide a relatively strong safety net, if you give the WalletHub rankings credence. Georgia gets extra credit for stashing $3 billion away in its rainy-day fund, a resource Gov. Brian Kemp tapped this month to bolster the fight against the coronavirus.
It’s important to keep in mind that whatever the merits of the WalletHub rankings, thousands of Georgians are losing their jobs and looking to state and federal help for unemployment benefits and other support to get through the looming financial squeeze.
And to be sure, Georgia’s high rank compared to neighboring states won’t mean much to workers who lose income as their families suffer. As the well-worn quote from Harry S. Truman goes: “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.”
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