Demand for These Jobs Has Plummeted -- and Won't Recover Any Time Soon

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on March 5, 2021

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Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows some jobs may not be coming back any time soon.

As the COVID-19 pandemic left Americans shuttered in their homes and businesses closed, certain industries faced dramatic negative impacts while others, such as IT, saw increased demand.

With vaccinations rolling out and states starting to lift restrictions, there's hope for economic recovery on the horizon. Unfortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests there will likely be far-reaching effects due to the pandemic -- and some jobs may not be coming back any time soon.

These industries were hit exceptionally hard

Based on BLS data, the industries hit hardest by the pandemic were those that catered to tourists, as well as those requiring people to gather in large crowds. This is not surprising, given that many businesses within these industries were forced to shut their doors while others were impacted by reduced consumer demand as people feared catching the virus.

However, the extent of the lost jobs is shocking in the hardest-hit professions. According to the BLS data, the change in employment from February to June of 2020 resulted in:

  • A 38.6% decline at hotels and motels
  • A 25.9% decline in the air transportation industry
  • A 25.6% decline at food services and drinking places

This is all well above the 9.6% decline in employment that occurred across all occupations (other than farm work, which is categorized separately). By contrast, as more people began to cook at home, there was a 3.5% increase in employment at grocery stores.

These industries will be slow to recover

It would be nice to believe that all of the workers let go during the lockdowns will be rehired as economic growth picks up post-pandemic. Unfortunately, this isn't likely as the world will remain a changed place even after COVID-19 vaccinations are available to all who want them.

BLS assessed the long-term outcomes on certain industries that could occur if the pandemic has either a moderate impact or a strong impact on consumer behavior on an ongoing basis:

  • The moderate impact scenarios assume that the main change will be more employees continuing to work from home as companies realize that remote work is effective.
  • In the strong impact scenario, BLS assumes people will remain afraid to gather in groups and hesitate to do activities such as visiting restaurants and attending sporting events.

BLS also released employment projections in September 2020 that reflected expectations before the pandemic hit. Based on these scenarios, some industries are expected to be hit especially hard. These include retail, food and drinking establishments, and the travel and accommodation industry.

For the retail industry:

  • Before the pandemic, employment was expected to decline 2.4%
  • If COVID's continuing impact is moderate, there could be a 4.4% decline
  • If COVID's continuing impact is strong, there could be a 7.2% decline

For jobs in food service and at drinking places:

  • Before the pandemic, employment was expected to increase 7.3%
  • If COVID's continuing impact is moderate, there may be only a 1.3% increase
  • If COVID's continuing impact is strong, there may be a 3.1% reduction

For employment in the travel accommodation industry:

  • Before the pandemic, employment was expected to decline by 0.3%
  • If COVID's continuing impact is moderate, it could fall by 4.2%
  • If COVID's continuing impact is strong, it could fall by 8.6%

Much of this change is likely due to an expected increase in people working from home, as well as the fact that consumers have developed certain habits during the pandemic -- such as using delivery, takeout, and pickup services. Those habits may stick even when life returns to a new normal.

What to do if your industry has been hit hard?

If you work in a hard-hit industry and currently have a job in your field, your best bet is to assume you have less job security and that it could be harder to find a new position if you need one. That means you should consider aggressively bulking up your emergency fund and working to repay debt to reduce your ongoing financial obligations.

If you're out of work, be sure to take advantage of any coronavirus resources offered by the government or other organizations. And consider if it makes sense to pursue opportunities in a different field. The government will likely soon provide a third coronavirus stimulus check. If you don't need that money to pay bills immediately, consider using it for a job training program or to otherwise enhance your resume once that money is deposited into your bank account.

Keeping in touch with your past employer and networking in your industry could also help you find one of the coveted positions likely to become available once lockdowns end. It pays to let past coworkers, bosses, and loved ones know that you're open to new opportunities. Hopefully, as people adapt to a changed world, the right position will come along very soon.

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