How the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Reshaping the Job Market

William Asher
Published Jan 10, 2024

The recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a huge overhaul of the American workforce. Jobs have been permanently lost at an extraordinary rate. Millions of Americans will have to find employment in a completely different industry. Read on to learn how the pandemic is reshaping the job market.

Consistent Employment

Only two-thirds of Americans were still working for the same employer in September as they were in February. The remaining one-third were either in new jobs or unemployed. This information is from the Real-Time Population Survey, which is a collaboration between data analysts and survey designers at Arizona State University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Researchers from the Brookings Institution say the situation is even worse. They estimate that 42% of the jobs lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic are gone forever.

Incomes Are Dropping

More than 25% of American workers earned less in September than they did in February. This information is also from the Population Survey. This suggests that people who are finding new jobs are having to take work that pays less. Many workers are also having to find new skills and careers. This is a big challenge for the government and for employers. The government wants to improve the unemployment numbers so that fewer people are collecting unemployment. People who are earning less may still need government resources, including SNAP or Medicaid.

Where Relief Efforts Stand

Democrats in the House of Representatives have proposed funding that would help retrain workers. This would provide workers with the skills they need to find a job in a different industry from their previous work. Many people and employers erroneously believed that the same jobs would come back. What they didn't think about was the public health issue of social contact. Most of those jobs won't return until there's a vaccine for COVID-19, and they may not even return when a vaccine is widely available. The relief package stalled out in the Senate, and it still hasn't been passed.

Industries With Jobs That Aren't Coming Back

The industries with the most jobs that won't be coming back include restaurants, bars, brick-and-mortar stores, airlines and event planning. These industries are still dealing with unemployment even as the general unemployment rate in the United States is going down. The arts, entertainment and recreation sectors of the economy have lost 11% of their jobs. Hotel, hospitality and food service industries have lost 12% of their workforce to other jobs.

What Happens If the Pandemic Goes On

The longer the COVID-19 pandemic lasts, the more likely jobs are to keep shifting away from restaurants, hotels, tourism, hospitality and retail positions. The number of permanent job loses was 3.8 million at the end of September. More than 12 million people have lost their jobs since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 13.

What Employers and the Government Can Do Now

Employers and the government need to plan how to retrain workers. The workers shouldn't have to pay for this training. People will need to be more flexible about their employment options. Someone who used to sell toys in a brick-and-mortar toy shop might have to branch out into cashiering at a grocery store or working in a warehouse that fulfills online toy orders. Some industries may need a total overhaul. Travel is one. Flight attendants and ground crews will need other work.

Workers Try to Make Do

The average manufacturing job paid $28.78 per hour in July. However, manufacturing has lost more than 5 million jobs between February 2000 and February 2020. During that time, the food services industry grew by about 5 million jobs. The average hourly wage of a food service employee is $15.50. Despite American workers wanting to work and being flexible, some of them still aren't coming out ahead. They're having to take lower-paid jobs and are barely scraping by. Many are turning to food banks and other resources to fill in the gaps. When employers don't pay workers a living wage, the taxpayers have to make up the difference. This ends up putting more of the economic burden of the recession onto the middle class. The result is the middle class shrinks, and its members also can't make any headway in saving for retirement, paying for a college education or handling all the monthly living expenses for a family.

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