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Industries Most and Least Impacted by COVID-19 from a Probability of Default Perspective – September 2020 Update

View our latest blog in this series from March 2021
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In an effort to revisit the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), we took another look at the most and least affected industries to date with a historical view of the summer months.

In our two previous blogs, dated March 2020 and April 2020, we discussed how COVID-19 caused a significant negative impact on supply chains and disrupted many industries around the world, including Airlines and Oil and Gas Drilling. However, we saw a plateau in the probability of defaults (PD) toward the end of March. This plateau continued into the summer months, declined and then picked back up in a second increase that coincided with a second wave of virus infections in some countries.

Following this global backdrop, we have analyzed the top five industries most and least impacted by COVID-19 by leveraging the Credit Analytics Probability of Default Market Signals model (PDMS) which uses stock price movements and asset volatility as inputs to calculate a one year probability of default (PD).

Our analysis shows once again that the industry most impacted is the Airlines industry.  The median PD at the start of 2020 was 2.75% which maps to b+ credit score. Airlines PD increased to a peak of 26.9% (ccc-) on April 2, then declined but stayed in the ccc range until the end of June, and stood at 6.36% (b-) as of August 31.  We can see that PDs have definitely declined to more moderate levels, but are still two notches higher than they were at the start of the year. Some global air travel demand has increased but is still depressed and airlines have indicated large scale layoffs to stay solvent.

Casino & Gaming is no longer in the top five most impacted industries, but Oil & Gas Drilling and Restaurants have remained. We see similar trends to the Airlines for the Restaurant industry with a median PD starting at 2.1% (b+) at the start of 2020, peaking in the beginning of April at 19.4% (ccc), declining to 9.2% (ccc+) by the end of June, and now sitting at 6.36% (b-) at the end of August. As restaurants in some countries returned to business in a limited capacity (delivery only/outdoor dining) at the end of the summer, we observe associated declining PDs. However, with some cities and countries pushing back opening restrictions, there was an uptick in PDs at the end of July, which coincided with a second wave of infections in some locations.

Auto Parts & Equipment and Leisure Facilities were the other industries in the top five most impacted industries, demonstrating similar trends.  

Industries Least Impacted by COVID-19

Now we’ve covered the most impacted industries, we review the industries that have been the least impacted by COVID-19 from a PD perspective. The only change in the top five least impacted industries since our last blog was that Specialized REITs replaced Healthcare REITs. The other sectors remained the same as in April (Property & Casualty Insurance, Multi-Line Insurance, Life & Health Insurance, and Industrial REITs).

The analysis shows a consistent theme: the most impacted industries experienced a heightened PD level from the end of February to mid-June, a sharp decline to mid-July and a plateauing throughout August. We still observe higher PDs for these industries at the end of August compared to the start of 2020.

We will continue to monitor industry PD levels and expect to see rising PDs once again if another wave of infections increases in the coming months.

To summarize, from January 1 to August 31, the five industries most impacted by COVID-19 are as follows:


PD level at January 1, 2020

PD level at August 31, 2020




Leisure Facilities



Oil & Gas Drilling



Auto Parts and Equipment






The five industries least impacted by COVID-19 are:


PD level at January 1, 2020

PD level at August 31, 2020

Specialized REITs



Property & Casualty Insurance



Multi-line Insurance



Life & Health Insurance



Industrial REITs



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