6 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed the Job Market for Good
by Dana George | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on March 29, 2021
Change can be scary, but it can also be good -- particularly if you plan ahead.
As vaccines find their way into more arms and the number of COVID-19 cases decreases in some areas of the country, it's natural to wonder what the world will look like once the coronavirus crisis is in our rearview mirror. Will we fill concert arenas again? Will millions of us continue to work from home in pajama bottoms? How will the employment landscape look?
Here, we take a look at employment projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to get a picture of six ways the job market has changed for good. First, the not-so-good news, and then a look at the industries (and kinds of jobs) expected to grow.
1. Working from home will have a "spillover effect"
By August 2020, nearly one in four American adults reported working from home due to the pandemic. That means millions of us are making our own coffee instead of picking it up at a local coffee shop and eating lunch at home rather than ducking into a deli near the office. Fewer of us were getting on subways or buses, or even filling up our gas tanks. As some employers realize how productive their telecommuting employees are and how much they can save by downsizing office space, scores of people who did not work from home pre-pandemic may now do so permanently. The change is likely to mean less profit for transportation companies, restaurants, coffee shops, and commercial real estate companies.
The number of people working from home is good news for grocery stores (who have experienced a 3.5% growth in employment during the pandemic) and for anyone working in computer-related occupations.
2. Travel-related jobs will continue to feel the pinch
Despite news stories showing thousands of unmasked partiers on beaches, many Americans will likely be slow to embrace going maskless surrounded by strangers. Until medical professionals get a better sense of whether a vaccinated person can spread COVID-19 and whether the vaccine protects against emerging variants, it may be a while before folks flock to vacation destinations.
The BLS study predicts a decrease in travel-related jobs, including air, ground, and rail transportation. Less travel means fewer people staying at hotels, eating in restaurants, and visiting tourist-dependent sites.
3. Retail will shrink
How much retail profits shrink depends on whether consumer behaviors are temporary or permanent. It also depends on whether a retailer is willing or able to convert its business model to accommodate online orders. As profits contract, so does the need for employees.
4. The arts will suffer
The BLS predicts the desire to avoid large crowds will cut down on the number of people willing to attend theaters, concerts, and live sporting events. The smaller the crowds are, the smaller the need for employees in these venues will be.
5. The demand for computer-related jobs will increase
There are a couple of career fields that will emerge from the pandemic with a rosier outlook than most. One of those fields includes computer-related jobs. Anyone involved in the manufacture, upkeep, and security of computers is likely to experience increased career potential. There will be an expanded need for programmers, computer consultants, desktop support engineers, WAN engineers, systems administrators, security consultants, and software publishers. As businesses need more experts to oversee computers used by employees working from home and retailers need help getting their shops online, computer-related jobs will continue to grow.
6. The number of jobs in the scientific and medical fields will expand
Employees in the scientific research, pharmaceutical manufacturing, and medical fields are also likely to see a host of new jobs. Even if and when herd immunity renders COVID-19 a mere nuisance, no one will forget its impact on the world. Scientific research will play a key role in discovering emerging diseases. Pharmaceutical companies will help develop the drugs to fight those diseases. Medical workers will be essential in keeping the populace healthy.
Make smart choices based on these predictions
The BLS admits that they cannot predict which careers will grow or contract with 100% certainty. They have attempted to make a best guess by studying the trajectory of specific jobs and industries.
You can use these predictions to plan your course, and even to put more money in the bank. For example, if you've always wanted to go into healthcare, research, or IT, now may be a good time to apply to school. You won't make money immediately, but you can prepare for a career with a future. Or it may be an excellent time to start your own small business if it meets a current need. For instance, the number of interior and exterior home improvement projects soared during the early months of the pandemic, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. With some people hanging out at home a little longer, decorating or handyman services are likely to be in demand.
As we emerge from the pandemic, there is no denying that some things will be different. How we adapt to life and work in that new reality is up to us.
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