“This couldn’t come at a worse time,” said rep. Bill Keating while discussing COVID-19’s effect on Cape Cod’s summer season. Every year, the Cape and Islands draw people from around the country to their beaches and historic communities. Tourists, celebrities, and even presidents go to visit the beautiful landscape while bringing with them enough business to support a seasonal industry that many locals rely on. But with the Coronavirus pandemic that brought stay-at-home orders, social distancing guidelines, and overall fear, the Cape and Islands are suffering.
When it comes to COVID-19 and places like Cape Cod, the consequences of the virus don’t necessarily follow the spread. Nantucket County, for example, has both the highest unemployment rate (23.5%) and lowest COVID-19 case rate out of any county in Massachusetts. Nantucket had only 13 cases as of May 27th but is being hit the hardest with unemployment.
Provincetown, on the very tip of Cape Cod, has the highest unemployment rate out of any other municipality. While unemployment has risen to 28.5 percent, Provincetown has a COVID-19 case rate of only 838 per 100,000 people. For perspective, Chelsea’s COVID-19 case rate is 7,378 per 100,000 people, yet the city has a lower unemployment rate of 23.9 percent.
Data reveal that counties with a higher rate of COVID-19 cases actually tend to have lower unemployment rates (see below). Densely populated counties like Norfolk and Middlesex have the two lowest unemployment rates in the state but are in the top 4 counties for cases per 100,000 people, with Middlesex as number one.
For areas like the Cape and the Islands, it is clear that COVID-19 doesn’t have to be prevalent to have dire effects. Urban areas with relatively low unemployment have relatively high numbers of Coronavirus cases.
June has always marked the time of year when ice cream stores in Hyannis start to have lines out the door and traffic at the Sagamore bridge begins to get backed up, but year-round Cape Cod residents might be stuck with a quieter and far less prosperous summer this year.
The data in this tracker was provided by Applied Geographic Solutions, Inc. (AGS), of Thousand Oaks, California, according to their weekly release including estimates through May 9, 2020, and is presented with their written authorization. The methodology that AGS used to model this data is described here. Because the federal government does not report unemployment rates by ZIP Code or community, and issues unemployment reports on a time-delayed basis, AGS has created an economic model to estimate real-time unemployment by state and municipality using a combination of federal employment sources. In its modeling, AGS uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics labor force by ZIP Code and occupation; weekly state-by-state initial jobless claims by occupation; and monthly labor force publications that provide detailed unemployment estimates by state, and major metropolitan areas. AGS says this about its methodology: “On a weekly basis for the next several months, AGS will be creating and making available an updated, rolling weekly unemployment estimate at the block group, ZIP code, and county levels of geography. While we do not pretend to have “on the ground” information to support these estimates, our initial tests on the data to date suggest that our methodology is a reasonable one – we are focusing on the distribution of employment by occupation and using a series of estimates of vulnerability curves to simulate what is being reported at a national and state level.”
Max von Schroeter is the Roger Perry Government Transparency intern at the Pioneer Institute. Research areas of particular interest to Mr. von Schroeter include healthcare costs and public education. He is currently a student at the University of Virginia studying business and history.