Charts of the Week: COVID-19 and workers

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In this week’s Charts of the Week, more data and analysis about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the workforce. For more on Brookings experts’ response to coronavirus, visit our resource page.


Note: In the U.S., physicians are computed as belonging to the categories physicians, surgeons, and physician assistants, whereas nurses are computed as belonging to the categories registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

Dany Bahar says that “if you are going to be treated for COVID-19, there is a good chance your treating physician or nurse will be an immigrant.” The American Community Survey shows that 1 in every 4 physicians and 1 in every 6 nurses are in fact foreign born. Bahar explains that “as scientists also work around the clock to find a vaccine for this new virus, let us not forget that a big chunk of these scientists and inventors are immigrants.”

“[H]opefully, after all this is over,” Bahar writes, “we’ll remember that immigrants played a big role in helping humanity overcome this crisis.”


FIg1Adie Tomer and Joseph Kane discuss how “the United States still requires an enormous class of workers to keep essential services online.” The DHS-designated industries employed anywhere from 49 million to 62 million people in 2018, representing 34% to 43% of the workforce total in the U.S. , Tomer and Kane observe. They argue that “providing free life and health insurance to essential workers who must leave their homes to continue working is an honorable and affordable policy.”

COVID-19 is hitting the nation’s largest metros the hardest

Map 1Mark Muro, Jacob Whiton, and Robert Maxim examine how “county-level infection and economic data [show] that the nation’s COVID-19 case load not only remains heavily concentrated, but that the hardest-hit counties and metro areas constitute the very core of the nation’s productive capacity.” The nation’s 50 hardest hit counties support more than 60 million jobs and $7.4 trillion in economic output. The authors conclude that the government will need to “ensure the pandemic is fully under control in America’s core hubs before trying to ‘reopen’ America for business.”