Monday, February 22, 2021

What Covid Will Do to Jobs

This has been a helluva year for those who work with demographic and economic statistics. Everything is topsy turvy. The usually dependable government data released over the past 12 months—household income and spending data, time use estimates, and net worth assessments—was either collected before the pandemic, making the findings irrelevant, or collected during the pandemic and tainted by survey anomalies such as low response rates. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment projections for 2019-29, released last September, are no exception. The BLS based the projections on pre-Covid labor force and economic assumptions. Consequently, they raise more questions than they answer. How would Covid impact the labor force in the decade ahead? How would Covid change industries and occupations?

Now the BLS has addressed some of those questions. In a Monthly Labor Review article, BLS economists estimate the impact of the pandemic on industries, occupations, and employment. The analysis compares the baseline projections for the next 10 years, released in September, with two alternate scenarios—a moderate Covid impact and a severe Covid impact. With a few exceptions, the BLS economists show that the biggest Covid impacts will be strengthening ongoing trends rather than reversing them. 

Cashiers are one example. In the baseline series, this occupation was projected to be the one losing the largest number of jobs between 2019 and 2029—a loss of 265,000. Because of Covid, the job losses will be even greater. In the moderate-impact scenario, the number of people employed as cashiers will fall by 511,000 between 2019 and 2029. In the severe-impact scenario, the number will fall by 714,500. "Checkout automation is expected to accelerate because of the pandemic," say the BLS economists. 

Information security analysts are at the other extreme. In the baseline projections, this occupation ranked as one of the 10 fastest growing, with a 31 percent increase in jobs between 2019 and 2029. Because of Covid, these jobs will increase even faster—up 42 to 43 percent in the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively. "The increase in telework and robust demand for work-related digital security are expected to make these analysts the fourth-fastest growing occupation in either alternate scenario," the BLS economists report.

Because of the pandemic, jobs in medical research also are projected to grow rapidly in the decade ahead. "Both the public and private sectors will likely pay greater attention to pandemic preparedness going forward," the study's authors report. This explains why the number of epidemiologists, which had been projected to increase by a modest 5 percent in the baseline projections, is projected to expand by a much larger 31 percent because of Covid.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, Employment Projections in a Pandemic Environment

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