With Jill Gonzalez, Personal Finance guru and Spokesperson for WalletHub.com
Steve talked with Jill Gonzalez, personal finance guru and spokesperson for Wallethub.com, to learn how much greater the impact of the coronavirus is in some states than in others along with the specific ways in which the various states are affected.
Jill is an expert in personal finance and investing and Wallethub did extensive research to find out which states are the most shut down and suffering the heaviest from the coronavirus pandemic.
Which States Are Shut Down The Most?
Jill explained that Wallethub’s study looked at six different metrics showing the decrease in visits to various types of places due to the coronavirus. Categories that were measured included retail stores, recreation areas, grocery stores, and workplaces. States were graded on a scale of 0 to 100.
Steve informed listeners that the state experiencing the most severe coronavirus shutdown overall is Hawaii which has a score of 92. Jill attributes Hawaii’s high score primarily to the fact that the state is so heavily reliant on travel and tourism, two industries that have virtually ground to a standstill. She noted that one interesting finding of the study was that even trips to grocery stores have declined by approximately 60% in Hawaii.
Number two on the list of hardest-hit states is—not surprisingly—New York. According to Jill, “In New York, people are still going to places like grocery stores, but everything else is pretty much a no-go. New York has seen the largest decline in the retail and recreation industries, along with usage of public transportation.” She remarked that the huge drop-off in people using public transportation is really hard to fathom for a city like New York, where so many people traditionally use the subway system.
Jill believes that New York City is one area where some of the changes brought about by the coronavirus are likely to have lingering, permanent effects on how people work and live. For example, she expects that many people who have transitioned from working in an office to working at home will continue being telecommuters even when the “shelter in place” restrictions are lifted.
How Is Florida Doing?
When Steve specifically asked where Florida ranked, Jill replied that it came in as the 6th hardest-hit state. Like Hawaii, a lot of Florida’s economy is driven by the travel and tourism industries. She added that another reason for Florida’s high ranking is the large elderly population there. She said, “I think the elderly are trying to keep themselves safe, not really venturing out as much,” and she added, “Florida is an interesting case. We see reports on the news of very crowded beaches while at the same time a lot of elderly communities are really locking down.”
Steve expressed some skepticism about how widespread the use of the beaches is, reporting that in the South Florida area where he resides, all of the parks and beaches are still closed.
States Suffering The Least From The Coronavirus
So, which states are on the other end of the scale, the ones that are the least shut down? As of the first of May, the state that’s the least shut down is Nebraska, followed by Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Alabama, and Ohio. Jill summed the situation up by saying, “There are a lot of Midwestern and Southern states that are showing the lowest level of shutdown or economic slowdown. And some of those states are already starting to reopen, at least partially.”
Red States Versus Blue States
Steve ran down some of the analysis done by industry rather than just by state. He told listeners, “The states seeing the biggest hits to the retail industry and the recreation industry are—in order, starting with the worst-hit—New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Hawaii, and Montana. Among the states experiencing the biggest slowdown in the grocery store and pharmacy sectors are Hawaii, Vermont, and Florida.”
There’s a notable difference when you look at the impact of the virus in red states versus blue states. Jill stated that “There’s quite a large difference. Red states are slowing down considerably less than blue states, overall.” In fact, blue states are, on average, about twice as shut down as red states are.
When Steve asked what might account for such a large discrepancy, Jill offered priorities as a possible explanation. She said, “I think that in terms of states reopening, they’re either prioritizing the economy or prioritizing health, and I think a lot of the blue states are prioritizing health while a lot of the red states are prioritizing the economy.” She added that blue states, for example, New York, were among the states that were hit the earliest and the hardest by the coronavirus.
Biggest Increases In Unemployment
Steve next asked Jill which states are showing the biggest increases in unemployment. Between 20 and 30 million people nationwide have filed for unemployment just within the past few weeks.
The week that Wallethub did its research, Florida was showing the highest increase in the rate of unemployment. Jill tried to put the situation in perspective for listeners by saying, “Florida has seen about a 6000% increase in unemployment claims, in terms of now versus this time last year.”
Louisiana was in second place, right behind Florida. Again, you’re talking about two states that normally have thriving travel and tourism industries. Jill also pointed out that both states are usually hot spots for spring break vacations. Finally, she added that “Louisiana has been hit twofold because the other industry that’s huge there is the oil industry, which has taken a huge hit.”
Steve asked Jill if she could offer any insight into why states such as California and Massachusetts are on the low end of things as far as unemployment increases. She suggested that states that have a lot of technology companies are suffering less because the tech sector is still doing well. She also commented that “The other sector that Massachusetts is very well known for is healthcare, which is, for horrible reasons, booming right now.”
You can find a wealth of financial tips and advice from Jill and other financial analysts at Wallethub.com.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily of the radio show. Interviewee is not a representative of the radio show. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by the radio show.
Steve Pomeranz: With many industries in the US ground to a halt because of social distancing restrictions, the personal finance website WalletHub today released its report on the state slowing down the most during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I also want to talk about the states with the biggest increases in unemployment. Joining me is Jill Gonzalez, spokesperson and financial analyst for wallethub.com. Welcome to the program, Jill.
Jill Gonzalez: Thanks for having me.
Steve Pomeranz: The pandemic has definitely replaced the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We’re discouraged or even legally prevented from going out except to essential errands or work. Some industries have suffered more than others obviously, but let’s first talk about the states, and you did a survey or you created some research which showed which states are shut down the most or slowing down the most. Can you go through that with us, please?
Jill Gonzalez: Yeah, to really see which states are slowing down the most because of the pandemic, we looked at six different metrics, and they’re essentially the increase or decrease, mostly decrease, in visits to various types of places due to the virus. So categories are like retail and recreation, drops in visits to those types of places, or grocery stores, parks, transit stations, workplaces. We’re really seeing where people are staying home the most essentially, and where things have just really come to a halt.
Steve Pomeranz: You know, some states are incredibly buttoned up, like I’m looking at the state that has slowed down the most during the pandemic, and that is Hawaii with a total score of almost 92. Tell us about the methodology and how you get to a score of 92, and what did you think that score really means?
Jill Gonzalez: It’s all added up to a 100 point scale between those six metrics that I said. Everything is rated equally, and essentially the bigger the decrease in the mobility, the bigger the score. Hawaii essentially has seen huge decreases in how many people are going to retail and recreation places. Even grocery stores, which have probably seen the smallest decrease throughout this.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Jill Gonzalez: In Hawaii, we’re seeing a decrease of around 60%. People are going to the grocery store 60% less. And in Hawaii it’s a few different things. One, it’s such a state reliant on travel and tourism, so a lot of people are not able to work right now because that’s not really happening, and it has to really keep people indoors in their homes because it’s an island. They don’t have the resources to deal with a health epidemic and pandemic of this size.
Steve Pomeranz: Right. So it’s like some of these small countries around the world that are been able to shut down completely because they have a homogeneous population or whatever reason, the government has got more influence than other countries, and Hawaii represents one of those. The other state we hear about the most is New York. New York is number two on the list, and that has a score of 77, so there’s a large discrepancy between Hawaii and New York, even though New York is number two.
Jill Gonzalez: That’s right. In New York, people are still going to places like grocery stores a little bit more than they are say in Hawaii, but everything else is pretty much a no go. New York has seen the highest retail and recreation decrease in mobility, same with the highest transit stations. Not a lot of people are relying on public transportation, which is really hard to fathom in New York in general, and the same with the workplace. I think that’s something that we’re going to see remain in New York more so than other states. You know, if people do not have to report to a physical work location, they’re not going to now and probably for quite a while in the future.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, that’s going to be a very interesting outcome of all of this, is how work habits are going to change, how many of our habits are going to change. Now, most of my listeners are in Florida, so we’re all really interested to know where we rank in this measurement of relative slowdowns. Where does Florida rank?
Jill Gonzalez: Florida ranks sixth overall, so things have slowed down a lot there. I think the elderly population is certainly one reason, people trying to keep them safe, the elderly themselves trying to keep themselves safe, not really venturing out as much. Florida is an interesting case. We see reports on the news of very crowded beaches while at the same time a lot of elderly communities that are really locking down.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. Well you know, you see those reports about the beaches, but I can tell you from the area that I live, all the beaches are closed, all the parks are closed, and I noticed in some of the other research that that is really not the case in many, many states. The parks are open, golf is still something that’s made available under certain restrictions. But in the areas that I live, I live in South Florida, everything is pretty much shut down. I think some of the reports showing open beaches is really the exception rather than the rule, though I could be wrong.
Now, I have relatives in Illinois, in Colorado, in Massachusetts, and in California, and just out of potluck here, we see that Illinois, Chicago is, well, Illinois is ranked 22% with a score of 43, which is pretty darn low I would think. Let’s go, for giggles, let’s take a look at the very last state, which is Nebraska, right?
Jill Gonzalez: Yeah, Nebraska is 50th here, ahead of Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Alabama, Ohio. So a lot of Midwestern and a lot of Southern states with the least amount of slowdown, and like you said, a lot of those places have not closed parks necessarily, so people have been going out there. Some of those places as of now are reopened, or at least partially reopened.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, we hear about that.
Jill Gonzalez: So it’s a tale of two very different Americas.
Steve Pomeranz: That is America for you. Let’s take a look at the different industries. So the highest, retail and recreation, New York has the highest decrease in mobility. It’s kind of a funny way to say that. Followed by New Jersey, Michigan, Hawaii and Montana. The lowest, as you just mentioned, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, West Virginia. Highest grocery and pharmacy mobility changes, well, you mentioned Hawaii. Florida is number three here. Vermont is number two. The lowest is Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky. Highest parks decrease in mobility, Hawaii and Florida, as I just mentioned, Texas, Montana, California comes after that. The lowest is Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut and Ohio. You also did a study of how it breaks down to red and blue states, so that’s really interesting. Tell us about that.
Jill Gonzalez: Yeah, there’s quite a large difference here. Red states are slowing down considerably less than blue states during the pandemic. Their average rank here was about 32, whereas blue states were about 16. So essentially double the difference here.
Steve Pomeranz: Can you think of any reason for that in particular?
Jill Gonzalez: I think just in terms of states reopening, you’re either prioritizing the economy or you’re prioritizing health, and I think a lot of the blue states are prioritizing health right now and a lot of the red states are prioritizing in economy.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah.
Jill Gonzalez: I think you could also argue that the blue states were hit sooner. New York, the epicenter, the blue states, hit much sooner. They essentially are witnessing or just witnessed the peak. So they are on the downhill now, whereas some of these states, especially down South, haven’t had their peak yet. So they might think that this problem is just on a smaller scale for them, when really they just haven’t seen the scale yet.
Steve Pomeranz: I also think there was some messages from the national government early on about the virus, not taking it too seriously, so that may be carrying over to some degree. Let’s talk about the US economy and look at those states that have had the biggest increases in unemployment. Florida, at least the week that this survey was done, Florida was the most affected in the country. Can you take us through some of those on the list?
Jill Gonzalez: Yeah, absolutely. When it comes to unemployment in general, this is something that we update week to week, and we’ve seen it remain pretty consistent as far as the states that are pretty much hit repeatedly every week. I think that we might see that change soon as the different job industries are affected, but Florida, because it relies so much on the travel industry, on tourism industry, that’s one of the states that’s been hit repeatedly hard by this. They’ve seen about a 6000% increase in unemployment claims, just when you’re looking at this time now versus last year.
Steve Pomeranz: Interestingly, Louisiana is next either in both the week, affected in a particular week, and since the COVID-19 crisis began. Why Louisiana? Is it travel as well?
Jill Gonzalez: Oh yeah. Huge, huge travel place. It’s going to New Orleans, the live music festivals, Jazz Fest, to all of these things that are canceled. A big spring break place as well. So all of those plans canceled, and Louisiana kind of has it twofold, because the other industry that’s huge there is oil, and that’s taken a huge hit as well.
Steve Pomeranz: Right, right. Colorado was number 10 for the most affected during that week. 14 since the beginning of the crisis. We have California most affected, 36. California has maintained lower numbers. Any expectations as to why that might be?
Jill Gonzalez: I think when we think of California, we might think Hollywood, which is very affected here. The entertainment industry in general largely shut down. Tourism, again pretty big there, largely shut down. But what California has is the Silicon Valley, and tech is booming right now, so that’s really a saving grace.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, interesting. And another thing that interests me too is Massachusetts, so it’s all in that Northeastern corridor. You think New York being a population center, you think Massachusetts or Boston being pretty much a population center, but yet Massachusetts, its effect unemployment wise, since the start of the crisis is 35th in the nation. Does that seem to be unusual to you?
Jill Gonzalez: Massachusetts is also a large technology hub. You have Harvard and MIT right there by Boston. A lot of tech companies are based out of Boston. And the other thing that Massachusetts is very well known for is healthcare, which is again, for horrible reasons, booming right now.
Steve Pomeranz: Interesting. Now, the blue states versus the red states with unemployment claims, how does that shake out?
Jill Gonzalez: Right now, blue states have a lower increase in unemployment claims. Again, because of the job families. When we talk about technology, the Northeast is very heavy there. The West Coast, very heavy there. So Washington, Oregon, California, not really seeing the amount of layoffs and furloughs that we’re seeing in a lot of red states. The average rank here, closer to the bottom of the center, was around 32 for blue states, 22 for red states.
Steve Pomeranz: My guest, Jill Gonzalez, is a spokesperson and financial analyst for wallethub.com. For more information about this and a lot of other good articles about money and other things, go to wallethub.com. Jill, thank you for joining me today.
Jill Gonzalez: Anytime. Thank you.