. The U.S. Cities Best Positioned to Recover From the Pandemic | Northstar Meetings Group

The U.S. Cities Best Positioned to Recover From the Pandemic

San Jose, Calif.; Washington, D.C. and Denver are among those poised for a faster rebound, according to Moody's Analytics.

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Which cities are most likely to come back quickly from the COVID-19 pandemic? A new report from Moody's Analytics offers some potential answers. The financial intelligence firm has released an analysis that breaks down which of the 100 largest metro areas in the United States are best and worst positioned for economic recovery, providing meeting planners with a factor to potentially take into consideration when considering site selection.

Those at the top of the list had high levels of educational attainment and low levels of population density. Unlike the recovery from the global financial crisis, densely populated cities are at a disadvantage when it comes to bouncing back from a pandemic in which crowds and close social interaction present risks, according to the research. Adam Kamins, director of economic research for Moody's Analytics and author of the report, predicts that to avoid these risks, less-densely popluated cities that still offer opportunities will prove more attractive in the near term, and potentially beyond that. 

Moody's plotted population density against the percentage of adults with a Bachelor's degree or higher as well as the share of jobs that require either a college or graduate degree — as those cities that can provide high-paying jobs to prospective residents would be better-positioned for recovery.

"The importance of educational attainment represents the continuation of a key existing trend, while the need for more space reflects a new one that typically runs somewhat counter to high levels of educational attainment," Kamins told Northstar Meetings Group.


moodys-chart1By these measures, cities that had been growing quickly but had not yet reached a high level of density received top marks in the report. These include Denver and Salt Lake City, as well as Washington, D.C., where building height restrictions have helped keep its density below that of other major Northeast metro areas. The Midwestern hubs of Omaha and Des Moines also scored well. 

"Educational attainment has arguably been the single-most important determinant of an area's economic growth potential for some time, and that only grew more pronounced during the previous expansion," said Kamins. "An elevated share of residents with at least a college degree means higher per capita incomes and more jobs in lucrative industries."

He added that this is especially true for tech, which has been the key differentiator of fast-growing and slower-growing economies over at least the past decade.  

For that reason, Kamins cites San Jose, Calif., with "its sprawling tech campuses" as a city likely to rebound faster than "tightly packed San Francisco." The fast-growing cities of Raleigh, N.C. and Austin, Texas, could prove more attractive in a new, post-COVID-19 world. Seattle and Minneapolis, both of which have a highly educated workforce but "are not as densely populated as alternative white-collar hubs in their regions" also scored well. 

moodys-chart2College towns such as Durham, N.C. and Madison, Wisc. as well as suburban areas such as Silver Spring, Md. and Cambridge, Mass. were also spotlighted as the kind of low-density, high-education destinations likely to grow in a post-COVID world.

"Last decade, large, globally connected metro areas were the first places [to come out of the Great Recession] and their tech-driven economies accounted for the lion's share of GDP gains," said Kamins. "It was only after housing and labor costs began to drive firms elsewhere that areas such as the Mountain West and Southeast consistently set the pace. This time around, however, the most dynamic recoveries may well bypass traditional powerhouses and take place instead in those areas that either were leading or were poised to lead the way in 2020 before everything changed."