The U.S.: An Employment Outlook Amid COVID

October 20, 2020
By Mary Anne Thompson, Founder and President, GoinGlobal, Inc.

Hard hit by the coronavirus, the United States’ economy has begun a recovery helped by telework-friendly industries and recession-proof job sectors.

The U.S. economy remains one of the largest and most complex in the world. However, as with many other countries around the globe, it has been decimated by the COVID-19 epidemic, contracting by nearly 32% in the last quarter alone. Although the economy is now in recession, things are expected to improve over the next year, as businesses adapt to the “new normal”. The US’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – a monetary-based measure of a country’s economic strength -  is expected to shrink by 3.7% this year, but may expand by as much as 4% next year, as businesses recover from the coronavirus lockdown.

The COVID-19 epidemic has cost millions of jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to average 7.6% this year, but to drop to 5.5% next year as the economy gets back on track. Although the hiring pace is starting to pick up, the rate remains 7.4% below last year’s level. Not surprisingly, the employment outlook is highest for jobs that are telework-friendly. Thus, the leisure and hospitality, retail, construction and transportation, and warehousing industries have seen the greatest downward trend in employment over the past year.

The most telework-friendly industries include the following:

  • Educational services

  • Professional services

  • Finance and insurance

  • Information

  • Wholesale trade

  • Real Estate

  • Public administration

So far, the US has recovered nearly half of the 22 million jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic. But there is still a long way to go. Job listing website Indeed reports that the number of job postings remains 20% below last year’s levels.

By Region

Due to the great size and complexity of the economy, conditions can vary greatly at the state level. COVID-19 has added another layer to the complexity, as each state’s economy was affected differently by the extent of the local spread and the types of measures the state has enacted to contain it. These measures are constantly changing as leaders monitor infection rates and hospitalizations.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobless rates are higher than last year in nearly every major metro area. The largest year-over-year employment decreases have been in the following major metropolitan areas:

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

However, things are starting to improve in many areas. An analysis by WalletHub comparing the change in the number of unemployment insurance initial claims since the onset of COVID-19 to the present with the number of claims during the same time period last year, found that the labor markets of the following states have recovered the most so far:

  1. Oregon

  2. Connecticut

  3. New Jersey

  4. Pennsylvania

  5. Vermont

  6. Illinois

  7. Iowa

  8. Wisconsin

  9. Arizona

  10. Wyoming

The states whose economies have recovered the least are the following:

  1. Georgia

  2. Florida

  3. New Hampshire

  4. Oklahoma

  5. Louisiana

  6. Virginia

  7. Kentucky

  8. Indiana

  9. North Carolina

  10. Maine

Source: WalletHub/U.S. Department of Labor

Areas of Job Promise

Although the coronavirus has been directly responsible for the loss of millions of jobs, it has also created some new career paths related to containing the virus and facilitating companies’ adjustments to the ‘new normal’.

In particular, the demand for new safety-related roles is growing – especially for contact tracers, temperature takers, health monitors, decontamination technicians, virtual event facilitators and workplace redesigners to help businesses modify layouts for social distancing.

Technology is playing a greater role in the workplace and professionals who are flexible and tech-savvy are needed across many sectors. The expanding remote work environment has spurred demand for developers specialized in extended reality – virtual, augmented and mixed – to create more immersive experiences for a scattered workforce. Administrative professionals are needed to implement social distancing measure in companies, provide aid to remote staff and train workers in the newest technologies in areas such as video conferencing. Cybersecurity specialists will also be needed to stay ahead of hackers trying to take advantage of dispersed teams and networks.

And, with so many people sticking closer to home, the e-commerce sector has seen a major surge. Candidates experienced in customer relationship management systems, demand generation software and marketing automation will have a major edge in the current job market.

In addition, the pandemic has dramatically increased the workload of health care institutions, and administrative professionals are needed to help support them. The growing volume of insurance claims has created demand for insurance coders and medical billers. Contact tracing workers with good communication skills are also needed, as are patient service specialists and medical executive assistants.

Talent Shortages

LinkedIn reports the following positions are most in-demand:

  • Salesperson

  • Food Delivery Driver

  • Registered Nurse

  • Software Engineer

  • Store Associate

  • Cashier

  • Financial Advisor

  • Stock Clerk

  • Training Supervisor

  • Project Manager

Job candidates prepared to work remotely will have a decided edge in the job market.

Most in-demand remote jobs

  • Software engineer

  • Software architect

  • DevOps engineer

  • Account manager

  • Back end developer

  • Project manager

  • Account executive

  • Sales manager

  • Sales development representative

  • Full stack engineer

Skills in Demand

With the increased focus on teleworking, demand has increased for professionals skilled in employee learning and development, digital literacy and technical support.

More than 90% of employers report that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.

Critical soft skills

  • Professionalism

  • Strong oral and written communication skills

  • Flexibility/resilience

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Teamwork and collaboration skills

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Companies Hiring

Major corporations from nearly every sector are looking for tech talent to provide digital services and manage a remote workforce. These include amazon, IBM, Mitsubishi, Target and Disney, as well as the following:

Financial Services

  1. Charles Schwab

  2. Cigna

  3. Capital One

  4. U.S. Bancorp

  5. The Bank of New York Mellon

Business Services

  1. Booz Allen Hamilton

  2. SAIC

  3. CDW Corp.

  4. Datafox

  5. Digital Management Inc.

  6. CGI Group

  7. Capgemini


  1. Ramy Infotech

  2. Infosys

  3. Dell

  4. Oracle

  5. VMWare

  6. Nvidia Corporation

  7. Facebook

  8. Google

General Salary Trends

Salaries took a large hit at the onset of the coronavirus, but have begun to climb again, slowly. A recent survey by financial coaching company Student Loan Planner found that the following professions have seen the smallest drops in income during the pandemic:

  1. Nurses

  2. Corporate employees (ICT workers, project managers, sales reps)

  3. Veterinarians

  4. Teachers

  5. Non-Profit professionals

  6. Physician assistants

  7. Lawyers

  8. Physicians

  9. Pharmacists

  10. Government employees

Recruitment firm Hayes reports that 31% of employers plan to raise salaries next year.


While the U.S. has a long way to go in its economic recovery, the climb back to pre-COVID job levels has begun. Remote work has become and will remain more common, and those with the skill sets to gain positions with telework-friendly industries will have an advantage moving forward. Positions in health care, technology and finance, which are plentiful now, will remain so in the near future. Salaries should increase over time, helping in the overall economic recovery.