The devastating effects of battling the coronavirus include the loss of 41.6 million US jobs, representing 25% of the adult US workforce.

New research from WalletHub released updated rankings for cities with the highest increase in unemployment.

“It is definitely a dramatic change,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “Unfortunately the pandemic has caused severe job loss throughout the country.” Some cities, she said “have recorded a growth in unemployment claims as high as almost 700% since the beginning of this year.”

With orders to shelter- and work-from-home since mid-March, it is unsurprising that many of the most affected are cities which rely heavily on tourism. Las Vegas and North Las Vegas were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, with nearby Henderson, NV (the south-of-Vegas city where many casino employees live) ranked No. 4. This week, after a 78-day shutter, casinos have begun reopening, many with safety measures, and social-distancing.

Other destination cities in the top 20 include Honolulu, Orlando, Nashville, and New Orleans.

WalletHub noted that figures in its report, Cities with the Biggest Increases in Unemployment Rates Due to COVID-19, corrected previously erroneously reported data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS disclosed that it did not include temporary layoffs as unemployed (reporting them as “absent from work because of other reasons”), so the actual unemployment rate may be 33% higher than reported by the BLS. WalletHub’s report includes both the official and “adjusted” rate, based on the BLS oversight.

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The report features an interactive chart of the top 180 cities, listing each of the cities’

  • overall rank

  • unemployment rate

  • growth in unemployment (April 2019 vs. April 2020)

  • growth in unemployment (January 2020 vs. April 2020) and

  • the “adjusted” employment rate

Image: WalletHub

Image: WalletHub

The report added insight from four experts.

Too many unknowns

There are too many “unknowns” to guess when unemployment will return to “normal,” and may never return to pre-crisis level, said Christine Moser, an economics professor at Western Michigan University. ” I would say at least a year to get back to something that looks normal, but there are too many things that could happen between now and then.” She recommends the unemployed look into acquiring new job skills that they can learn vertically.

“The jobs aren’t going to come back as quickly as people hope and there will be a second wave of unemployment because of the looming budget crisis in state and local governments,” Moser said.

Some businesses may get boost from backlog

David M. Piper, chair and professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, stressed that “kindness comes to the forefront” and cited state response teams at the ready. For unemployment to reach pre-crisis levels, Piper said it would be a combination of each state’s reopening plan, combined with each employee. He cited some businesses are likely to have a backlog, such as “home construction, hair salons, etc.” and added that those businesses may receive a boost due to “work that has been sidelined for the last several weeks.”

Unemployment may go up before coming back down

Before the pandemic, unemployment levels reflected all-time lows (3.6% in January 2020), which have been on a downward trend since 2009, said Tuvana Rua, a business professor at Quinnipiac University, who added that it took about 10 years to return to the levels of the pre-2008 financial crisis. Rua noted a recent projection that the second quarter of 2020 might show a 14% unemployment rate. “It is reasonable to assume that there is a long time for us to get back to pre-crisis levels in terms of unemployment, even if we had no new infections and no new deaths and all restrictions were lifted tomorrow, which obviously is not the case.”

Respect humanity in a time of great change

“Many experts believe that our lives won’t ever return to pre-pandemic normal levels,” said Linda Fisher Thornton, a professor at the University of Richmond. “There is so much change underway that I don’t think it would be accurate to refer to the future as the after-pandemic era, and we should instead refer to adjusting to life in a ‘new pandemic reality.’ We have learned just how deeply connected our global village is and that awareness will need to inform our solutions to local, national, and global challenges.”

Thornton’s message is one of humanity “we are all experiencing fear and uncertainty,” and the loss of income will find many struggling to pay rent or mortgages, or even to get food. It’s important, she said that those who “suffered the unemployment always be treated with respect,” and encouraged managers and leaders to acknowledge what for some is devastation. If those with the authority can “assist the unemployed, leaders can be a trustworthy source of much-needed human support that will help people regain their footing and move forward.”

“It’s still difficult to say when exactly these numbers will drop, and it depends on the industries upholding most cities,” Gonzalez said. “Some cities are slowly beginning to open, and authorities are attempting to restart their economies. Grand Rapids relies on manufacturing and will be able to see improvement before Las Vegas, which depends on tourism. But broadly speaking, it will still be a while until the entire country is able to get back on track.”

This article was updated on June 5, 2020, with additional information from analysts.

Image: Getty Images