Last week, the U.S. received a shock when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the monthly jobs report: Within a month, the unemployment rate had jumped by more than 10%, from 4.4% in March to 14.7% in April.
April’s unemployment rate was the highest on record since the BLS started publishing the statistic in 1948. Economists are still determining what this means, and the extent of the impact may not be known for years. Even so, in these hard times, it remains a fact that some employers are still hiring and that opportunities exist for job seekers.
We sat down with Indeed economist AnnElizabeth Konkel, who has studied Indeed’s new job postings in depth, to get her take on what’s going on in different industries right now.
What are the key findings?
No sector has been unaffected by the coronavirus. In some, like tourism, the impact is obvious: With travel severely limited, the closure of many businesses and health experts advising people to stay at home, hardly anybody is going on vacation right now. In other job sectors, however, the impact can seem almost counterintuitive. For instance, although we are in the midst of a global pandemic, healthcare jobs have actually decreased as a pause on elective surgeries has impacted demand.
But certain industries are faring better than others. In order to find out which, AnnElizabeth measured how new job postings by industry on Indeed are growing relative to last year. She found that new jobs in the tech and healthcare industries have seen smaller downturns in postings.
According to AnnElizabeth, “The impact by industry largely depends on how much the spread of coronavirus plays into the business model. For example, childcare — which saw nearly a standstill in hiring — involves a lot of physical proximity and contact. Tech jobs like software development, on the other hand, can often be done remotely.”
What does this mean for employers?
While some companies are expanding hiring and seeing increased demand for their products, it is undeniable that things are hard for many employers right now. Though we can’t predict where events will lead us or how long the economic slowdown will last, the ongoing efforts to limit the spread of the virus have undoubtedly impacted businesses’ budgets and their bottom line.
However, as AnnElizabeth says: “Poor performance is not a reflection of a business; it’s a reflection of a public health crisis that has drastically changed the environment they function in.”
Meanwhile, many businesses can’t currently function the way they used to, and some are playing a difficult waiting game. While it’s difficult to gauge what will happen in the future, some job sectors may see an uptick in business sooner, or may even be able to hire at a reduced rate. Others may have to wait for restrictions to lift before deciding what to do.
For example, though places like dental offices and beauty salons can’t operate normally right now, demand for those services will likely return when it is deemed safe to visit them again. At that point, there may even be a surge in demand for personal care services — like haircuts and teeth cleanings — that people have put off while at home. So businesses that want to be competitive when things reopen may want to have staff ready to go.
AnnElizabeth thinks that if employers are in a position to hire right now, “they can play a key role in combating the economic devastation that coronavirus is having on the US economy.” Offering someone employment and expanding business, where possible, could damper the economic impact of coronavirus.
What does this mean for job seekers?
There’s no getting around it — it’s a tough time for job seekers. But similarly to how she views business performance, AnnElizabeth points out that the struggle isn’t a reflection of a job seekers’ skill sets; it’s due to the larger challenges of the current situation.
Even in the current environment, there are still available opportunities for job seekers — it will probably just take longer to find a job than it would have a few months ago. The advice AnnElizabeth has for job seekers is this: “Continue applying for jobs and be open to a range of options and opportunities. Even if it isn’t a dream job, there are possibilities out there.”
If possible, job seekers should consider developing new skills that may be useful when the job market starts to improve. For now, certain companies are hiring in vast numbers for things like tech support and a range of grocery-supply chain related roles.
In these unprecedented times as things continue to change quickly, we will continue to dig into Indeed’s data to keep you informed of what’s going on in the labor market, and what it means for you.