The COVID-19 pandemic has already staggered the U.S. economy, some areas more so than others. Variations in the ultimate impact on a given area will be associated first with its exposure to the virus, but other factors will be in play as well.
How might we expect to fare in Bakersfield?
Chmura Economics & Analytics, a firm composed of PhD economists, statisticians, data scientists and mathematicians, studied 384 metro areas in the U.S. and came up with what it calls its COVID-19 Economic Vulnerability Index. The index gauges what sort of negative impact the COVID-19 crisis might have on jobs in a region based upon the industries present there.
It might seem strange to study which cities are best equipped to weather a worldwide catastrophe, but that’s precisely what Chmura researchers did. They report that Bakersfield is equipped to fare much, much better than almost every other metropolitan area. Bakersfield is 13th best, in fact.
An average Vulnerability Index score is 100, which represents the average job loss expected in the United States. An index of 200, for example, means the rate of job loss is forecast to be twice as large as the national average. An index of 50 means a possible job loss of half the national average.
Coming out worst were Maui, Atlantic City, N.J., and Las Vegas — all tourist destinations, all with index scores of more than 175.
The least affected by COVD-19 is, according to the researcher’s forecast, Trenton, N.J., a regional government center with an index of 70.1, followed a few slots back by metro Bakersfield, which for purposes of the study, includes all of Kern County. Bakersfield’s score was 84.5.
“What this study reveals is the incredible diversity of our region’s economy, and indeed on the WalletHub large city survey,” said Richard Chapman, CEO of the Kern Economic Development Corp. “We were the third most diverse economy in the U.S. (in the WHS ranking). And a lot of this has to do with the STEM related jobs that create mobility, not just within new industries, but within existing industries.
“So moving forward we work to develop these different legs of the stool, to create that sustainability and economic security that is critical,” Chapman said.
Chapman said there is one caveat: The survey was taken before oil prices dropped dramatically. Chapman, however, said he was confident that Kern County was a whole is economically diverse enough to justify its ranking.
The researchers concluded that Bakersfield/Kern is not just oil and food production, but alsoo government, logistics, aerospace, healthcare and more.
Based on this forecast, therefore, Bakersfield may potentially suffer much less than the average region. It’s hard to be very happy about that, but in this climate of caution and fear, it’s something.