Industries performing best and worst during COVID-19—and how they're responding

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May 26, 2020

Industries performing best and worst during COVID-19—and how they're responding

The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world has ushered in massive changes to the way people live their daily lives. Offices have shuttered, and those who can work remotely are working from home. Bars, restaurants, and theaters have also been forced to close, and those who were employed serving food, beverages, or entertainment are now searching for new ways to make up their lost income. Schools have by and large suspended classes for the rest of the academic year, and students are now remote-learning, with assistance from technology like Zoom. And hospitals are deluged in parts of the country with coronavirus cases, while other medical procedures and appointments have been put on hold.

It would be difficult to overstate the degree to which these massive shake-ups in American society have impacted the economy. Fears of a recession loom over many industries and many Americans have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, leading to record unemployment numbers.

But not all industries are impacted equally by COVID-19. Some industries that provide goods or services for people remaining in their homes are experiencing a surge in revenue due to the virus, as are financial planners and lawyers, who are tasked with helping people through times of uncertainty and crisis.

On the other end of the spectrum, industries that rely on gatherings of people or face-to-face interaction have shuttered for the foreseeable future, leading to a steep decline in revenue and financial uncertainty. Many workers like bartenders, hairstylists, and stagehands are impacted by social distancing and the mass closures of nonessential businesses.

Stacker compiled a list of the industries most and least impacted by COVID-19 using data from Womply. The data shows average changes in weekly revenue for each industry year over year as of May 19, 2020 (data released May 22), with industries ranked from best- to worst-performing.

Related: 50 tips for improving your work remote life

#21. Food and beverage shops

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: +76%

One of the most significant changes coronavirus has brought to daily life is the closing of bars and restaurants across the country. Without the option to eat or drink at restaurants or bars, food and beverage shops are seeing an uptick in sales as people sate their hunger and thirst in their own homes. COVID-19 and ensuing lockdowns also drove panic-buyers to start hoarding groceries back in February. 

#20. Public services and government places

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: +23%

With mass unemployment wrought by the closure of many businesses, stimulus checks sent out to Americans from the Treasury, and health care systems stretched to capacity, it's no surprise there has been an uptick for government services. Government and public services are hiring additional workers to handle increased demand, including employing hundreds of new workers to handle unemployment cases in New York.

[Pictured: Eddie Rodriguez and other City of Hialeah employees hand out unemployment application on April 8 in Hialeah, Florida.]

#19. Retail and wholesale businesses

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: +9%

While shops across the country are shuttering their doors due to the coronavirus, people are still spending on physical goods. One trend that may be driving retail purchases? Quarantined Americans are purchasing new home goods to upgrade their dwelling-places.

#18. Pet services

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: +6%

On first blush, it may seem unlikely that pet services would increase during a time of social distancing when dog walkers and dog daycares have stopped their typical tending to their customers' pets. But owners taking closer care of their own pets stuck at home may be struck with the urge to get their pets new toys to contend with cabin fever, while others may suddenly be struck with the urge to foster a pet of their own to get through the isolation that comes with social distancing.

#17. Educational institutions

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: +5%

Schools across the country have shuttered in response to the coronavirus, but this hasn't stopped a slight increase in educational institution revenue. One possible reason? The boom in online learning, fueled by companies like Zoom, which offer virtual classrooms for children learning from home.

#16. Professional services

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: +4%

Professional services is an industry encompassing a broad spectrum of industries, including lawyers, accountants, and financial planners. With the coronavirus causing mass uncertainty in Americans' economic lives and fears of a recession looming, professionals trained to help people manage finances are seeing a surge in demand for their services.

#15. Religious organizations

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -8%

The impact of times of crisis and uncertainty on religious attitudes and behaviors is a topic of study and debate. While some may turn to religion to get through difficult times, the practical realities of social distancing have closed church doors to gatherings and precipitated a drop in revenue due to the simple fact that services can no longer be held in many places. 

#14. Local services

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -16%

With nonessential businesses closing to promote social distancing, local services are seeing declining revenues. Trips to local service providers like tailors, florists, and nail salons will have to wait to reopen their doors until it is medically safe to do so and are losing revenue because they have no customers to serve.

#13 (tied). Auto services

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -19%

With social distancing closing offices and canceling social gatherings across the country, Americans are driving less than they were before coronavirus hit. With less time spent behind the wheels of their cars, there is simply less need for Americans to get auto services right now.

#13 (tied). Health care and medical centers

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -19%

It may seem surprising that during a medical pandemic, medical centers are losing revenue. But a closer look reveals one reason why revenue may be declining: the cancellation of voluntary procedures, in addition to long-scheduled surgeries, to make room for COVID-19 patients.

#11. Quick serve food and beverage

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -21%

The hallmarks of fast food service—standing in line to order burgers, fries, and shakes that are made quickly in great quantities to serve many people at a time—are exactly the conditions that coronavirus has made impossible to continue. Fast-food chains are trying to deal with the dip in revenue by promoting apps in which customers can schedule orders for pickup or delivery.

#10. Auto sales businesses

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -24%

With people stuck at home and concerned about a potential recession, auto sales are on the decline. The virus has also caused a decline in the production of new cars, as factories close to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and encourage social distancing.

#9. Sports and recreation places

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -28%

Sports leagues from the NBA to the MLB were forced to cancel their seasons due to coronavirus. One of the most significant postponements in the sporting world? The Summer Olympics, which was scheduled to take place this year in Japan, has now been pushed to 2021.

You may also like: Timeline of how COVID-19 shut down the sports world

#8. Health and beauty businesses

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -41%

Hair salons, nail salons, and gyms alike have all been forced to shutter during coronavirus to keep people a safe distance away from each other. Even house calls aren't safe to make, which means those who make a living tending to the health and beauty of others are simply unable to work due to coronavirus.

#7 (tied). Online businesses

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -51%

Although it might seem as though online businesses would be able to operate as normal during the crisis, consumer purchasing power and decisions are likely impacting the decline in sales for online businesses. Americans are paying more attention to where their money goes as fears of a recession loom, which may be responsible for the decline in online sales.


#7 (tied). Bars and lounges

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -51%

Bars and lounges are specifically designed to bring people together and, as such, were ordered to close to promote social distancing during the coronavirus. Waiters, bartenders, and bar owners alike are uncertain how long the shutdown will last, and in many cases where their next paychecks will come from.

#5. Restaurants

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -59%

Restaurants were quickly shut down as the importance of social distancing became clear. The impact on the industry from lost revenue could be devastating, as Americans seem to favor ordering groceries over ordering restaurant takeout.

#4. Parking businesses

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -72%

Parking garages and valets are generally dependent on a thriving restaurant, bar, and work environment, where people move from place to place to meet with others. With social distancing in effect, people are not driving to congregate anywhere in most cases, leaving parking businesses in the lurch.

#3. Lodging places

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -78%

Many hotels have been forced to close due to the coronavirus, and they aren't the only lodging places facing dramatic losses in revenue. Airbnb is another major lodging platform that has seen a spate of cancellations in March, as travel plans were canceled en masse, leading to a loss of expected income for hosts. Airbnb has committed to help their hosts by paying a percentage of lost revenue.

#2. Arts and entertainment businesses

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -88%

Broadway went dark at the outset of the coronavirus crisis, canceling performances and losing ticket revenue from dozens of shows. The same shutdown has occurred on a smaller scale at thousands of venues around the country, leading to a significant loss of ticket sales and associated revenue.

#1. Transportation businesses

- Change in weekly revenue year-over-year: -90%

Coronavirus has been devastating for the transportation industry, as social distancing and isolation measures have mitigated the need for transportation. Companies like Uber say they are supporting their drivers by helping them find other jobs, but drivers are saying they would prefer sick pay and unemployment, which Uber has been reluctant to grant.

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