Unemployment numbers are surging in response to the Covid19 crisis. The City reports that New York State has sent out a record $43.7 billion in unemployment insurance payments to New Yorkers based on final summer tallies. Unfortunately, this number continues to grow as cooler fall temperatures send people indoors.
Gone are many of the unskilled positions that were the first to be eliminated as small businesses closed. Automation upgrades are being implemented, viewed as suddenly necessary to stay afloat. The pandemic and an increasing preference for online shopping have accelerated job market trends that favor skilled workers who can operate technology and excel in a digital marketplace.
Pandemic Lockdowns Crush Job Market
U.S. Cities forced to lockdown in response to the pandemic have suffered substantial job losses devastating local economies and family finances alike. Since the beginning of this health crisis, no area has been hit harder than the Northeastern region of the country.
Specifically, New York suffered significant employment losses in the spring of 2020 as virus numbers surged out of control requiring lockdowns to stop the spread. With the onset of cooler weather, numbers are spiking again which requires more economic restrictions and continued job loss.
The Wall Street Journal reports a 15.3% decline in New York’s job market this year. Comparatively, as a state that depends heavily on tourism, Hawaii is the only state that has suffered from greater job loss numbers than New York, posting a 16% decline since 2019. Inarguably, there is a direct correlation between loosening lockdown restrictions and a rise in virus cases in some situations. This conundrum establishes a predictable cycle where policymakers are forced to choose between the economic health of the local economy and saving lives. This untenable position is a lose-lose proposition for any politician, especially in light of current political tensions and a notable lack of local leadership.
The employment data is clear. The Wall Street Journal reports the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data that identifies the industries hit hardest. Construction jobs disappeared at a rate of over 16% with manufacturing jobs following close behind at 12%. Press Connects cites the hotel and foodservice industries as the two other hardest-hit sectors showing a drop of 39% since pre-Covid19 rates in February 2020.
While the industries mentioned above face obvious difficulties this fall and winter as cases of the virus begin to rise again, few industries have completely escaped the wrath of this deadly pandemic with movie theaters, salons, gyms, and entertainment companies also significantly impacted.
Business Closures Fuel Job Loss Numbers
The avalanche of this pandemic’s mayhem is made even worse due to the significant number of business closures. The New York Times predicts that up to one-third of small businesses in New York may be closed for good, as a casualty of this health crisis. When the vaccine finally arrives and is widely distributed, New Yorkers might find that many of their favorite restaurants and shops will be closed.
Unfortunately, as small businesses go, so do the job opportunities. While New York City is home to many Fortune 500 companies that have endured and even thrived during the pandemic, in some cases, it is important to remember that small businesses provide three million jobs and represent 98% of the city’s employers. Described as the backbone of New York’s economy, when small businesses can no longer pay the bills, a domino effect begins. Businesses close, workers are laid off, and taxes aren’t paid.
Since many business owners operate on slim profit margins, it is easy to see how eight months of dismal sales can lead to the bankruptcy court. When business proprietors are forced to choose between paying their home mortgage and keeping their business afloat, it is no surprise that the padlocks start appearing on more company doors for every additional day the pandemic lasts.
Pandemic Shines Spotlight on a Higher Demand for More Skilled Workers
While career prospects are especially dismal for unskilled restaurant workers and retail clerks, the employment landscape news is mixed offering more opportunities for skilled workers who possess digital skills. Without question, the pandemic has served to accelerate an already significant trend towards corporate automation.
This health crisis has fueled innovation as companies seek higher efficiency levels to survive. This increased focus on automation highlights the need for retraining lower-paid employees who are being replaced by technical upgrades. The New York Times reports that one of the few things that unite Democrats and Republicans is the recognition that workforce skill requirements are changing rapidly and that many workers need to be retrained.
As more employees work from home during the pandemic, it becomes even more clear that possessing computer skills will continue to be in demand in fields that were recently considered low-tech positions. For example, growing numbers of customer service representatives are being hired to work from their own homes using new technology that monitors customer interactions. Warehouse, retail, and home health workers are also witnessing the transformation of their operational procedures as businesses struggle to improve their bottom line.
Shortage of Health Care Workers
In addition to face masks and other protective gear to safeguard the health of nurses and doctors, there is also a shortage of actual medical personnel to treat patients. This health crisis is only exacerbated by the fact that the virus numbers are now rising in most states. During the spring months when the pandemic first began, the largest number of cases were concentrated primarily in a few key spots with New York experiencing the highest number of patients. Key medical personnel from other regions were rushed in to help.
Obvious health care personnel shortages loom large as the entire country is engulfed by rising Covid19 cases. This crisis has called on retired workers and medical students to step forward in an unprecedented and desperate move to acquire enough staff to care for the high tide of cases sure to come.
Truck Driver Shortages
There has never been a more profitable time to be a truck driver in the U.S. A perfect storm of high demand for cleaning supplies and groceries to fix home-cooked meals for people forced to eat at home equates to empty grocery store shelves. This increased consumer demand combined with a shortage of truck drivers has pushed retailers into a bidding war, driving pay rates up for truck drivers.
As the American public continues to hoard toilet paper, household goods, and cleaning supplies in response to worries about shortages; grocery stores, and other retailers are scrambling to find enough drivers to stock their shelves. When you also factor in the upcoming holiday shopping season, it is easy to see how truck drivers are able to name their price.
Covid19 has had devastating effects on the employment marketplace. Until this pandemic is under control and people are no longer afraid to venture out, more job losses are imminent. Unskilled workers hit hardest by small business employment losses may be forced to turn to delivery and first-line worker career options deemed essential to running the country while retraining for a more automated future workplace where digital skills are key to career success.
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