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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A shock to the job market as massive and as sustained as the coronavirus will leave lasting change — and damage — in its wake.

The big picture: We jumped from the best labor market in 60 years, before the coronavirus, to the worst, in April. As the country comes back, millions of jobs lost during the pandemic will never come back, and there will be massive reallocations of jobs from some parts of the economy to others.

  • "This is the biggest thing since the Great Depression. It's absolutely enormous and incredibly fast," says Nicholas Bloom, an economist at Stanford.

What's happening: Even as states start opening up, new job postings in the U.S. are still down nearly 30% compared with February, according to an analysis by research firm Gartner.

But a closer look at which sectors of the economy are hiring tells us more about how the pandemic might alter the job market.

  • There's been a surge in postings for grocery and delivery workers. Amazon, Walmart and Instacart alone have hired around 700,000 people since the pandemic began.
  • Look for similar surges in cleaning, sanitation and construction in the coming weeks and months, Bloom says. Public spaces will need to hire cleaning crews and construction companies to keep spaces sanitized and add barriers or other distance-enforcing features.
  • We could also see increased hiring in high tech because jobs in that sector can often be done remotely, he says.

There is also data on the sectors that have suffered most and that will have the toughest recoveries.

  • Jobs like Uber driver, flight attendant, server and chef are among those that have seen the steepest hiring slumps.
  • Gartner notes that hiring in some of the hardest-hit areas of the economy — like hospitality and retail — is starting to climb back up. But millions of jobs will be gone for good as many stores and restaurants permanently shutter and people remain nervous about traveling.

And there's another longer-term — and seldom discussed — potential impact of the pandemic: So far, much of the pain has hit low-skill and low-wage jobs, but white-collar jobs will also be in jeopardy as the crisis grinds on, Bloom says.

  • Consider this: The bulk of job creation during the pandemic has been in low-wage jobs, like grocery and delivery, while other sectors freeze hiring altogether. If a graphic designer or a middle manager at a software company loses their job now, it'll be very difficult to find a comparable job out there.
  • The deteriorating labor market could also push discouraged, laid-off older workers — who are also at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the coronavirus — into early retirement.
  • "There will be a number of people for whom this will be the last job they have," says Bloom. "And waves of early retirement are really bad for the U.S. labor market."

Go deeper

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Oct 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

The winners of the stay-at-home economy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has created a stay-at-home economy worth trillions.

The big picture: While the pandemic is killing scores of businesses that depend on office workers, it's also making way for startups and titans alike to conquer a new industry — powering our remote lives.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The fragile recovery

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is falling but remains remarkably high three weeks before pandemic assistance programs are set to expire. More than 1 million people a week are still filing for initial jobless claims, including nearly 300,000 applying for pandemic assistance.

By the numbers: As of Nov. 14, 20.2 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits of some kind, including more than 13.4 million on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs that were created as part of the CARES Act and end on Dec. 26.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The top candidates Biden is considering for key energy and climate roles

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged President-elect Joe Biden to nominate Mary Nichols, chair of California's air pollution regulator, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The reported push by Schumer could boost Nichol's chances of leading an agency that will play a pivotal role in Biden's vow to enact aggressive new climate policies — especially because the plan is likely to rest heavily on executive actions.

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