An Approach to Predicting Regional Labor Market Effects of Economic Shocks: The COVID-19 Pandemic in New England

Abstract: The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic led state and local governments throughout New England and much of the nation to issue ordinances restricting activity that might otherwise contribute to the spread of the disease. Individuals also freely adjusted their behavior, hoping to reduce the chances of infecting themselves or others. As a result, many employers have experienced substantial reductions in sales revenue, which were expected to generate harmful effects on the labor market. Even though the reversal of mandated policies and voluntary behavior changes are well under way, the initial effects and ongoing public health concerns may extend the time needed for labor market outcomes to improve substantially. This study uses pre-pandemic employment data by occupation and a conceptual framework focused on labor costs to identify the subpopulation most vulnerable to the economic shock and predict layoffs and unemployment in the second quarter of 2020. The analysis allows for the possibility of wage cuts mitigating job losses. Further extensions incorporate indirect effects due to reduced product demand from directly affected workers, as well as offsetting effects of a federal policy response. Predicted second-quarter layoffs and unemployment due to the pandemic vary throughout New England, and such adverse labor market effects tend to be somewhat smaller in the region than in the country as a whole. Additionally, official estimates of unemployment from available second-quarter data fall within the range of predictions, after accounting for plausible measurement error. This approach, which builds on the work of other recent analysis, should be helpful in estimating the regional labor market impact of future economic shocks.

Keywords: COVID-19; wages; New England; labor costs; unemployment rates;

JEL Classification: J30; I18; E24;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Part of Series: Current Policy Perspectives

Publication Date: 2020-06-29