Though all Coloradans faced a stay-at-home order from March 25th through April 26th, the latest data suggest that the rates of COVID-19 infection vary widely between counties. While some counties have seen very few cases, most have suffered large increases in unemployment.

The interactive chart below was produced using COVID-19 case data released daily by the Center for Disease Control and monthly job reports issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was inspired by a similar chart produced in the New York Times, “A Striking Disconnect on the Virus: Economic Pain With Little Illness.” The vertical axis depicts the change in each county’s unemployment rate between March and April. The horizontal axis shows each county’s infection rate in relation to all counties in the US. The size of each circle reflects the total number of cases.

The data suggest that there is no correlation between the infection rate and the change in unemployment. Counties with high infection rates are not any more likely to have had greater growth in unemployment rates; the obverse is also true. This disconnect between infection rates and economic disruption should warrant more public scrutiny and policy consideration should we see another surge in cases and be facing another stay-at-home order.

Several findings stand out:

  • Grand county has seen a drastic 15% increase in its unemployment rate, yet only a total of 15 residents have been infected.
  • 22% of all Colorado’s cases have been recorded in Denver. This total amounts to about 6,000 people and 0.83% of the county’s population.
  • Larimer, Pueblo, Douglas, and El Paso counties, home to 27% of the state’s population, have a combined infection rate of 0.23%.
  • High infection rates in Logan, Morgan, Washinton and Crowley counties are largely attributable to high case rates within the prison populations.
  • While counties like Eagle, Summit and Pitkin saw some of the largest increases in unemployment and had relatively higher rates of infection, the impacts to their job bases reflect their disproportionate share of industries that rely on tourism and recreation, given they contain some of the largest ski areas.
  • 35 out of 64 counties have had 50 total cases or fewer.