May 20, 2020 - Economy & Business

Coronavirus is bringing economic suffering across the U.S.

Data: Census Household Pulse Survey; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Data: Census Household Pulse Survey; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Nearly half of U.S. households have lost income since mid-March — but the suffering varies widely by state, according to survey data released Wednesday by the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: Income losses are particularly common in states that have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, like New York and New Jersey. But Southern states like Mississippi have experienced some of the most dire economic impacts, such as food scarcity and housing insecurity.

The big picture: The Census Bureau released the first two weeks of data on Wednesday from its new weekly survey intended to gauge how Americans are faring during the pandemic.

In the latest results, more than half of respondents in Hawaii, New Jersey, Nevada, Louisiana, Michigan, California, New York and Oregon said they or someone in their household had experienced a loss in employment revenue.

  • Many of these states have large tourism industries and high density cities — some of which suffered massive COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Between the two weeks of survey results, Virginia saw the greatest increase in the percent of people claiming to have experienced income loss — rising from 38% to 48%.
  • D.C. had the lowest percentage of residents claiming to have experienced income loss (33%), but it also had the second-highest rate of food scarcity.
  • States with the lowest percentage of people losing income include Wyoming, Kansas, Idaho and Montana.

Yes, but: Despite the widespread loss of income since mid-March, 72% of respondents in a new Quinnipiac University poll say their own financial situation is "excellent" or "good."

Meanwhile, a handful of Southern states saw more people struggling with essential basics like food and shelter, according to the Census survey, even though fewer people there reported experiencing pay cuts.

  • In Mississippi, 45% missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or said they had little to no confidence their household could pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.
  • 20% said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the past week.
  • The stats show a significant rise in these kinds of economic struggles for Mississippi in only a few weeks.
    • The results from the first Census survey taken one to two weeks prior found that 34% of Mississippi respondents said they faced housing insecurity, and 12% food scarcity.
  • Around a third of respondents in Oklahoma and Louisiana also reported housing insecurity; 14% of Louisianans said they'd had trouble getting enough food.
  • Those problems were not confined to the South: Illinois, too, had some of the highest rates of housing insecurity (33%) and food scarcity (14%).

The bottom line: The experimental Census survey — based on responses provided by 74,413 people for week one results and 41,996 people for week two results— is meant to provide critical information to government and industry leaders as they weigh public health decisions and look to rebuild the economy.

Go deeper