Sep 8, 2020

Axios @Work

By Erica Pandey
Erica Pandey

Welcome back to @Work. Keep the thoughts and ideas coming to erica@axios.com.

  • Heads up: Tonight Mike Allen asks Mark Zuckerberg about right-wing dominance on Facebook, the CEO's view of his Silicon Valley competitors, his relationship with President Trump and much more. The episode airs at 11pm ET/PT on all HBO platforms. Here's a clip from Mike's interview.

Today's edition is 1,355 words, or a 5-minute read. Let's start with...

1 big thing: Not enough jobs
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Data: Indeed Hiring Lab; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The number of unemployed Americans vastly outnumbers the number of open jobs in every single state.

Why it matters: Even though we've come back from the worst unemployment numbers, the pandemic's economic toll keeps turning furloughs into job losses — and pushing millions of people out of the workforce entirely.

By the numbers: In every state, job postings are way down compared with 2019 levels, according to data from Indeed's Hiring Lab that was provided to Axios.

  • In several states with job-magnet cities — like New York, California, Illinois and Massachusetts — postings are down close to 30%. "This is more a big-city recession than a rural one," says Jed Kolko, Indeed's chief economist.
  • Some places, like West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama, recovered but have started to dip again.
  • The outliers: The outlook in Hawaii and D.C., both of which rely on domestic and international tourism, is especially bleak, with job posts down 46% and 40%, respectively.

The big picture: With the pandemic affecting every city and every industry, job seekers have nowhere to turn.

  • "Historically, the U.S. has relied on mobility to solve these problems," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "The problem with the pandemic is that it has hit every single community in the country. There's nowhere to go."
  • As I wrote last week, hiring slumps have been concentrated in industries like hospitality and retail, which have been directly hit by the coronavirus crisis. But the effects are bleeding into other sectors like tech and finance as the pandemic and the recession push companies to reevaluate their hiring plans.

The bottom line: "We're gonna have a lot fewer jobs for a long time," Zandi says. "We'll get back, but it won't be next year or the year after. It'll likely be mid-decade."

2. Corporate America's virus trust crisis

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies around the world are trying to solve the back-to-work puzzle — but few workers trust their bosses to make the right decisions.

  • By the numbers: Just 14% of employees trust CEOs or senior managers to lead the return to work, according to an Edelman survey. Only half believe their offices are safe.
  • Between the lines: There's little consensus regarding which safety measures are needed for people to return to offices. Only about half of Americans think that masks and social distancing should be mandated, and even fewer think that temperature checks and plastic dividers are necessary.
  • Looking ahead: Many CEOs are looking for a vaccine before reopening workplaces, but 42% of Americans say they're either unsure or determined not to take a vaccine.

Why it matters: "This return to workplace is huge for business, if done safely and well," says Edelman Global CEO Richard Edelman. "If not, you’ll have a 2008 moment, when trust in business was really diminished."

Workers also expect their bosses to take a stand against systemic racism, per another new Edelman report.

  • 61% of American expect corporations to publicly speak out against racial injustice.
  • But while 62% trust small businesses to do so, only 43% feel the same way about large companies.
  • Still, people have placed far more trust in companies to respond to racial injustice (71%) than in the government (36%).

The bottom line: Between navigating the return to work and responding to racial justice protests, businesses have an opportunity to distinguish themselves to workers and consumers.

3. How to Zoom better

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

We're approaching six months of telework — and, for many Americans, that means six months of Zoom, Google Meet, Facetime, text messages and actual "phone calls" (remember those?).

Why it matters: The incessant video-conferencing is tiring CEOs and college students alike.

I spoke with Marissa Shuffler Porter, a work psychologist at Clemson University, about strategies to make all those meetings suck a little less.

"Any time that you’re going to have a Zoom meeting, it's important to know in advance what's okay and what's not," she says.

  • 📹: If it's the constant pressure to be on camera that's stressing workers out, companies could create a camera-off culture after introductions, or only ask speakers to show their faces.
  • ⏰: People should also think through exactly how long video calls need to be — and they shouldn't shy away from scheduling 15-minute meetings. "We default to scheduling hourlong meetings, and then suddenly you’re in eight hourlong meetings in a day," says Porter.
  • 💬: Still, it's important to spend some time in meetings talking about non-work things. "Get rid of the 'Let’s get this over with' attitude," Porter tells Axios.
    • Many employees are craving workplace social interaction or working on projects with new hires they've never met in person. "Talking about something non-work-related goes a long way to build trust," she says.

The bottom line: "People always go to video-conferencing, and we need to not do that," Porter says. "We’ve jumped to it, and we’re really burning people out on it."

  • Before you send that Zoom invite, think, "Could this be a phone call?" Or even better: an email.
4. A new era of worker angst

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

High anxiety levels are touching employees in nearly every industry — as measured by the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index and other polls and labor unrest could be bubbling beneath the surface, Axios' Courtenay Brown and Joann Muller write.

  • For example, 43% of Americans in last week's Axios-Ipsos coronavirus survey reported that they were concerned about their job security, and 44% said they were worried about their ability to pay their bills.

What's happening: This time last year, the unemployment rate was near a 50-year low. Jobs were plentiful, and corporations were bending over backwards to get employees to work for them.

The dynamic has vastly changed, with the jobless rate at some of the highest levels in nearly a decade (though falling).

  • The unemployed are unsure if their jobs will ever come back. The $600 per week boost in unemployment benefits shoring up their finances has expired — and is unlikely to return.
  • Those who do have jobs wonder how much longer they’ll have a paycheck.
  • Some workers face a previously unfathomable tradeoff: quit their job or keep it, but at the risk of potentially contracting the virus.

The bottom line: "The everyday middle-class workers are breaking from the stress of this pandemic," Mary Grimmer, who owns Little Treasures Schoolhouse, a Massachusetts-based child care organization, told me.

  • "People are really snapping, and you can see it."
5. Sign of the times: Moving back home

For the first time since the Great Depression, a majority — 52% — of 18 to 29-year-olds are living with their parents, according to a new Pew Research Center study.

  • That's nearly 27 million adults.
  • They include freshmen who are starting college remotely and new graduates who are entering the workforce from their childhood bedrooms.

📬 Are you a young person who has moved in with your parents? Email me! I'd love to hear about your experience working or learning from your parents' home.

6. Worthy of your time

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Unreliable data is complicating the unemployment crisis (Axios)

  • The U.S. unemployment picture looks to be improving, but it's increasingly being clouded by shoddy data, a problem that seems to be getting worse as the pandemic progresses.

Remote work is killing the trillion-dollar office economy (Marker)

  • There's a galaxy of businesses — ranging from trains to coffee shops — that hinge on the white-collar worker's return to the office. Steve LeVine (my former Axios editor!) lays out the monumental effects of telework on the economy.

The rift between workers with kids and those without (The New York Times)

  • Tech companies like Facebook, Twitter and Salesforce gave parents extra benefits and time off to juggle child care and work — then came the backlash from childless colleagues.

The coronavirus mental health crisis (Wired)

  • Americans' mental wellbeing is suffering as a result of the stress of the public health crisis and the isolation of prolonged telework. Some experts warn of a "second pandemic" of mental health.
7. 1 💰 thing: A pair of pandemic-era winners

A Peloton storefront in Berlin. Photo: Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Some companies are booming in the stay-at-home economy — and betting that the coronavirus will keep us inside for many more months.

  • Peloton, which sells bikes and treadmills and offers virtual workout classes, is adding new higher-end models to its suite, hoping that people will keep avoiding gyms. And it's lowering the price of its original spinning bike to $1,895 from $2,245, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Shopify, which provides e-commerce-as-a-service, has seen its market capitalization triple since March, per the Journal. The company is now worth $117 billion as scores of small businesses open online stores to get around record-low foot traffic.

Look for startups as well as established companies to place bets on the stay-at-home economy, too.

  • Equinox and Lululemon have both invested in streamable fitness classes.
  • And Walmart recently launched a competitor to Amazon Prime.
Erica Pandey

Thanks for reading!