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What If All US Metros Followed the NY PAUSE Strategy?

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Note: This ranking simulation is based on data available at 8 PM on March 22nd. Check the methodology section for details on the hypothetical estimates presented below.

The pandemic we currently face has elicited different institutional responses across the world. Within the U.S., each region is trying to do its own calculus to balance public health concerns with the economic risks — a difficult balance to say the least.  While it will take time for the impact of each of the different strategies to become clear, all leaders agree that following the C.D.C. social distancing recommendation is crucial. Among the most recent strategies to curb the spread of Covid-19 is New York’s statewide work-from-home order, which mandated that all non-essential businesses must reduce their on-site workforce by 100%.

Granted, not all the same sectors were considered essential in other states where similar restrictions apply — e.g. San Francisco limited open construction sites to residential projects, while Boston temporarily halted construction altogether. However, since the number of confirmed cases nationwide shows that New York is currently the most affected state, we considered the same filter across all U.S. metros with at least 300,000 employees, to gauge how much of each metro’s economy would need to remain active on-site while applying the New York state P.A.U.S.E. universally.

Modelling NY PAUSE Workforce Distribution Across US Metros

Applying the basics of this mandate on a national level would mean that an estimated 48.7% — or just under 60 million — employees in our data set fall under the 100% rule, whereby they would have to stay at or work from home, while essential business and services personnel account for the remaining 51.3% of employees factored into our analysis — roughly 63 million. As each metro has a different mix of businesses reflected in its workforce, we looked at how local distribution would vary across the board.

The graphic presented below shows our estimated essential (in green, shown to the left) versus non-essential (in blue, shown to the right) workforce distribution:

  • The top panel, which contains our nationwide distribution model, is followed by four panels representing each of the four main Census-designated U.S. regions: south, west, midwest, northeast.
  • Each regional panel features six metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), which our simulation shows would have the most employees falling under the 100% reduced workforce rule.
  • For each of the six MSAs featured, we also include a breakdown of the “at home” workforce by occupational bracket, from most populated occupations to least populated.

The table below includes the estimated workforce distribution for all 75 MSAs in our data set, grouped by region. Scroll through the table to see all entries, or use the search bar to jump to the metro area of your choice.


In this hypothetical, we wanted to see what the New York state restrictions on workforce during the novel coronavirus containment effort would look like across other U.S. metros. When sorting occupations and industries for the “exempt essential” category, we opted to include rather than to exclude any occupations which only partially apply to personnel that is essential to the continuing operation of government agencies, novel coronavirus research and response efforts, supply chains, as well as general health, safety and welfare of the public.

We factored these occupations at 100% workforce on site, whereas all others fell under the 100% reduced workforce rule. The percentage of businesses in the green represents a rough sum of essential services employees. We looked at 2018 BLS employment totals and occupations data for U.S. metros with at least 300,000 employees. For the selection of occupations to include under “exempt essentials” we matched the BLS data, to the best of our ability, with businesses and services considered essential and exempt as per the updated Executive Order 202.6, which took effect at 8 PM on March 22nd.


Due to lack of accurate data on current employment totals, as well as current on-site and off-site workforce, and for the purpose of simulation uniformity, the data presented in this hypothetical is most likely an overestimation on our part and does not reflect current numbers and workforce distribution on the ground. This rough model simulation is not intended to serve as a resource on which to base any policy or business decision.

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