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Expand chart
Data: Cognizant; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

While digitally enabled "jobs of the future" are still below their pre-pandemic level, new data suggests they are on the way back.

The big picture: The U.S. labor market is recovering faster than expected thanks to a so-far successful vaccination program and massive stimulus spending. Future-focused jobs suffered even more during the pandemic than employment as a whole, but the category is set to take off later this year.

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

  • The 28.8% quarter-on-quarter increase of the index marked its greatest gain ever over the past two years.
  • All eight of the job families within the index experienced growth in the first quarter of 2021, with Fitness and Wellness (+137.8%) and the Transport (+38%) sectors emerging as the top performers.

What they're saying: "We've rebuilt the essential job class, and now companies are beginning to think strategically about the jobs of the future," says Robert Brown, vice president at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work.

  • That doesn't automatically mean tech jobs.
  • The biggest single gainer by far was Caregiver/Personal Care Aide, a reminder that hands-on care will be a growing job category for an aging population in the future, now that vaccines have made in-home visits safe again.

The catch: Even with strong first-quarter growth, the index still posted a year-on-year decline of 22.2%.

  • And as Kevin Roose reported in the New York Times today, many workers in tech and other white-collar fields may take advantage of the disruption of the pandemic to rethink work altogether.

Go deeper

Apr 21, 2021 - Axios Denver

Why Colorado restaurants can't catch a break

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: John Frank/Axios

Restaurants in Denver, Fort Collins and across Colorado face "enormous" hiring and retention challenges, reflecting a broader national trend, the Colorado Restaurant Association tells Axios.

The big picture: It comes as restrictions are loosening and diners are returning to restaurants — and despite high employment and a massive push to hire back staff and bring on new employees, especially as the summer patio season approaches.

Potential public support for Biden's climate bet

Expand chart
Reproduced from Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans are more split on the question of prioritizing the environment over economic growth than they have been in years, which could be a good sign for public support of President Biden's climate and economic agenda.

Driving the news: Historically, more people favor prioritizing the economy over the environment when unemployment is high, and the opposite when unemployment is low. 

  • But when asked by Gallup last month, half of the respondents agreed that the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.
  • 42% said the opposite in the annual poll — that economic growth should be given priority, even if the environment suffers some.
  • The 8 percentage point difference is the smallest it’s been since 2015.

Axios' Ben Geman and Andrew Freedman’s thought bubble: There’s little evidence that environmental protections are a brake on growth — and actual evidence shows that environmental protection and jobs growth can go hand in hand. It's not a choice between the two.

Why it matters: Ben writes that the findings suggest Biden has political running room to pursue his aggressive environmental and climate agenda because it’s happening alongside recent economic and job growth.

  • The White House is also extremely aware of the political peril around economic attacks on the plans, which is why they’re trying very hard to paint the infrastructure plan — stuffed with low-carbon energy and transit provisions — as a jobs plan, he adds.

What’s happening: President Biden’s infrastructure proposal (and larger macro level bet) is a blend of two of his top four priorities: climate change and the economy. 

Businesses stand ready: Hundreds of companies are signaling support for a clean-energy economy and are starting to prepare for regulatory changes as they look for ways to benefit from backing the larger infrastructure proposal. 

  • ExxonMobil, for example, says it wants to collaborate on carbon capture and storage projects in Texas.
  • A group of 300-plus corporations and investors issued a letter last week calling for the administration to commit to cutting emissions to “at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.”

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.