Oct 21, 2020 - Economy

Coronavirus pandemic postpones jobs of the future

Data: Cognizant; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Many of the digital jobs of the future have suffered during the later stages of the pandemic, while in-person health care jobs are on the rise.

Why it matters: Automation and digitization will profoundly change the U.S. labor market, but that future has been delayed as COVID-19 forces companies to shift into survival mode.

By the numbers: The consulting firm Cognizant this week released the third-quarter numbers for its Jobs of the Future Index, which tracks the emergence of new jobs in the digital and automated economy.

  • For the first time since the index was launched at the end of 2016, postings for jobs of the future declined in the third quarter while job postings overall rose.
  • Jobs in the algorithms, automation and AI family fell by 13.2% in Q3, while jobs in the fitness and wellness family rose by 42.8%.
  • Home health aide grew by nearly 300% year-on-year, as the pandemic increased demand for health care at home, while health information manager/director fell the most over the year, declining by 56%.

Flashback: Early assumptions — including by me — were that the pandemic would accelerate the adoption of automation, but the sheer economic carnage means that change hasn't yet been reflected in jobs.

What they're saying: "The jobs of the future are collateral damage of the pandemic," says Robert Brown, vice president at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work. "American companies are focused on keeping the lights on rather than investing in digital growth."

Yes, but: This doesn't mean the disruptive effects of automation and AI have been postponed permanently.

The bottom line: Don't drop out of that AI course yet.

Go deeper: How COVID-19 reshapes the jobs of the future

Go deeper