Laura Begley Bloom, Forbes Senior Contributor
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted cities across the country with varying force. New York City has been hardest hit, and it’s no secret that the Big Apple is going to be one of the places that will have the most challenging time bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, no matter when things subside. But which cities will have the best coronavirus recovery? And which other cities will struggle? Moody’s Analytics has issued a report that examines the potential to recover from coronavirus among the top 100 metro areas in the U.S.—and while some of the results are to be expected, some are more surprising.
“The most dynamic recoveries may well bypass traditional powerhouses and take place instead in areas that either were or were poised to lead the way in 2020 before everything changed,” writes Adam Kamins, senior regional economist at Moody’s Analytics and the author of the report.
Moody’s grouped the 10 cities best poised to recover quickly from the coronavirus pandemic and the 10 cities worst poised to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. “Note that they are sorted alphabetically in order to avoid assigning false precision to our calculations,” Kamins told Forbes Women.
Best Cities for a Coronavirus Recovery
Among the 10 cities best poised to recover, Kamins points out that small college towns are particularly well positioned for a recovery. “Durham, North Carolina and Madison, Wisconsin could enjoy a surge in growth in the years to come,” says Kamins.
Fast-growing tech hubs in the West and South will also lead in the post-coronavirus era. “Silicon Valley is nobody’s idea of an up-and-coming area. But there is a notable contrast between the San Jose metro area, with its sprawling tech campuses, and tightly packed San Francisco,” says Kamins, who notes that Raleigh, North Carolina could also prove to be more attractive in a new, post-COVID-19 world.
Cities that were fast-growing pre-coronavirus will continue their rise. “Denver and Salt Lake City are well positioned to retake their crown as two of the fastest-rising metro areas in the U.S.,” says Kamins.
While Washington, D.C. is one of the more densely populated metro areas in the nation, its highly educated workforce and its architecture will pay off. “Its longstanding height limit on buildings [will help] leave it in better shape than the rest of the region,” says Kamins.
Other cities on the top 10 best list include Boise City, Idaho; Durham, North Carolina; Provo, Utah; and Tucson, Arizona. Read on for the full list of best cities for recovery.
In analyzing the cities, Moody’s Analytics looked at population density and plotted it against two measures of workforce quality, both using educational attainment. In the first comparison, Moody’s used data to compare population density against the share of jobs that require either a college or graduate degree. “Those economies that can provide high-paying jobs to would-be city residents are especially well positioned,” writes Kamins.
Moody’s also looked at CBSAs (core-based statistical areas), a U.S. geographic area defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that consists of one or more counties (or equivalents) anchored by an urban center of at least 10,000 people plus adjacent counties that are socioeconomically tied to the urban center by commuting. In this case, Moody’s used educational attainment and the average density across counties that was used to calculate regional exposure to COVID-19.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Big Cities
One of the biggest impacts the country might witness, post-coronavirus, is a migration away from living in big cities. “The generation that is growing up today could remember the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on large, densely populated urban areas and be more likely than its predecessors to opt for less densely packed pastures in the decades to come,” writes Kamins.
Kamins believes that this will also impact where business is done. “Firms will need to follow those workers,” writes Kamins. “Places that are more spacious, rely more heavily on car travel and provide ample access to single-family housing are likely to emerge as more attractive as a result, especially among those who choose to bypass the highly urbanized Northeast.”
Beyond the Lists
Other urban areas that didn’t make the top 10 list, but are places to watch—according to Moody’s—include Austin, Texas; Seattle; and Minneapolis. “Meanwhile, the draw of suburban areas should not be overlooked,” says Kamins. “The Silver Spring, Maryland; Montgomery-Bucks-Chester County Pennsylvania; and Cambridge, Massachusetts metro divisions could become appealing alternatives to their neighboring cities in a world in which physical proximity is viewed as inherently risky.”
And while they didn’t make it into the top 10 list, more isolated places in the Midwest could also succeed, including Omaha and Des Moines. Kamins points out that that they will benefit from the fact that they face few land constraints.
Kamins believes that the coronavirus fallout could damage some of the nation’s other dynamic economies in the future, including Boston and San Francisco—which didn’t make the 10 worst list, but will also fare poorly in the post-coronavirus era. “Each place is resilient enough to eventually find its footing again, but out-migration could pick up in the medium term,” writes Kamins.
Here are the 10 best and 10 worst cities for recovery. Note that Moody’s sorted the cities alphabetically in order to avoid assigning false precision to the calculations.
Top 10: Cities Best-Positioned to Recover From Coronavirus
(Note: These are alphabetically sorted—not listed in order)
Boise City, Idaho
Durham, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Salt Lake City, Utah
San Jose, California