Miami: The Unfolding Impact of COVID-19

April 6, 2020
Author: Jay Denton

Despite hailing from a place that has become a “hot spot” for COVID-19 in Florida, business leaders in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Florida metropolitan statistical area (MSA) expressed some initial optimism about the pandemic’s impact on their metro in a ThinkWhy survey.

To measure the initial reactions surrounding the coronavirus, ThinkWhy targeted six deeply affected U.S. MSAs, including Miami, for a survey that collected data from 500 business leaders between March 14 and March 19. The organizations surveyed ranged from 21 to more than 3,000 employees and represented every major industry.

Miami is a popular tourism destination.

In its proprietary survey of business sentiment, ThinkWhy found that 81.3 percent of Miami business leaders believed during the pandemic’s onset that the coronavirus would have an intense but only short-lived impact. Nearly 87 percent thought their company was doing everything it could to slow the virus’s spread. More than 73 percent said their organization was adequately prepared to handle the pandemic’s challenge. Nearly 79 percent ranked their company’s communications during the crisis as good or very good, and business leaders agreed with a 6.7 score out of a possible 10 when asked whether the U.S. economy was likely to rebound from the pandemic relatively quickly.

One finance executive in the healthcare industry seemed to sum up the metro’s attitude. “Being in South Florida, we often go through similar periods with hurricanes,” the executive said. “We have learned that you do not panic, and that this, too, shall pass.”

Pandemic Slows Miami Economy

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, Miami was ranked the nation’s 21st healthiest market, according to ThinkWhy’s LaborIQ™ Rankings Index. The four top industries in Miami are Trade, Transportation and Utilities (22.4 percent of the metro’s total employment), Professional and Business Services (16.9 percent of the metro’s total employment), Education and Health Services (15.1 percent of the metro’s total employment) and Leisure and Hospitality (12.1 percent of the metro’s total employment).


Before the pandemic, the Miami labor market, which typically produces 22,300 jobs annually, was expected to experience a slight slowdown to 18,100 jobs in 2020. However, the outbreak and response to COVID-19 ensures the downturn will be much greater than that.

As of April 1, there were 2,202 cases of coronavirus in Miami-Dade County, 1,232 cases in Broward County (where Fort Lauderdale is located) and 567 in West Palm Beach’s Palm Beach County. The number of deaths from the pandemic in those counties was seven, 12 and 16, respectively. On March 30, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Florida Keys, bringing all non-essential business there to a halt. He followed that up on April 1 with a statewide stay-at-home order that will last for at least 30 days.

Miami Businesses Adapt and Reinvent Themselves

The Leisure and Hospitality and travel sectors are likely to be hard hit in Miami, with tourism being one of the metro’s economic mainstays. While large hospitality companies are closing their doors or serving far fewer guests, smaller companies are thinking of new ways to safely conduct business with new revenue streams.

“My employees and my business will transition to delivery,” the owner of a small Miami restaurant said. “The employees and the business both need money, so I will continue to do it as long as it is safe.”

Related: The Tale of Two Industries During COVID-19

Overall, 78.7 percent of Miami business leaders said during the pandemic’s onset that their organizations would revise their revenue expectations because of the pandemic. They believed they would be most negatively impacted by Reduced Time and Attendance of Employees (46.7 percent), by Reduced Productivity of Existing Employees (41.3 percent), by Supply Chain disruptions (40.0 percent) and by Decreased Consumer Spending/Demand (40.0 percent).


These sentiments varied by industry. The Financial Activities sector was challenged mainly by the ability to staff their organizations appropriately. Manufacturing companies cited productivity and healthcare cost escalation as their main concerns. For retail-focused respondents, supply chain disruptions and decreased traffic were most likely to have a negative impact. The productivity of employees, as well as product availability, were cited by technology-focused leaders.

One tech executive at a small Miami company said, "I will try to be present more in telework and increase my visibility."

The Miami business leaders surveyed also believed the outbreak would have a strong impact on the U.S labor market and on the U.S. economy in general, at 7.3 and 7.6 out of 10, respectively.

Results of the ThinkWhy Research survey from the other MSAs profiled are listed below:

ThinkWhy continuously monitors and forecasts industries and MSAs to measure the impact on the labor market. Stay current with us. We are here to support organizations and provide insights during the economic downturn as well as the recovery phase.