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The fact that millions of people found themselves out of employment in the United States after the onset of COVID-19 is no secret. Over 55% of US residents lived in households that reported a loss of employment or income due to the virus. While some people resigned for COVID-related reasons such as fear of contracting the virus, taking care of someone affected with it, or psychological distress; the majority were unwillingly let go.
This was common across all industries such as education, health, leisure, hospitality, finance, professional services, and manufacturing. Although the world has now mostly returned to normal, the fear and uncertainty have had a lasting impact, having reduced the employment rate. International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts that the hours worked in 2021 will be 4.3% lower than those before the onset of COVID-19.
Why Has the Employment Rate Been Reduced?
As soon as it was discovered that COVID-19 spread via the air, social distancing was reinforced by the government. At its peak, 95% of the population was under house arrest because isolation and quarantine were key to curtailing the spread of this deadly virus. Although necessary, that ‘stay at home’ order had a damaging economic and social impact.
Government restrictions withheld access to public spaces where people could have come into contact with one another, such as dine-in restaurants, cafes, theaters, cinemas, concert halls, retail stores, diners, sports rinks, and many other places. Since these businesses generated no revenue, they had to temporarily or permanently shut down and the workers were laid off or sent on unpaid leaves.
Even the small businesses that chose to stay open, faced a decreased demand due to a reduction in people leaving their homes. Albeit a small number, some businesses voluntarily shut down as well, for the safety of their employees and the general public.
While the government has lifted these restrictions all over the United States, that fear has trickled down. As this virus has not been completely eradicated and there have been cases among the vaccinated population while many chose not to get vaccinated, a lot of people do not feel safe to leave their homes unnecessarily. This increased hesitancy is why the employment rate has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels and is not expected to, for the next 3 year.
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Who is Affected The Most?
While the COVID-19 employment impact was experienced by everyone in one way or another, the magnitude of how people’s lives changed was unequal. Some groups were hit way harder than others and those include the following.
People in Low-Income Sectors
High-wage jobs such as financial and professional services, and education and health services quickly transitioned to teleservices after COVID-19. While that initially involved technological friction, it took a month or two for their world to shift online. That, however, was not the case with low-income sectors such as hospitality and leisure.
These sectors, including jobs covering retail sales, are centered around in-person interactions between service providers and customers that cannot be done online. This is also evidenced by the rise in online shopping during the pandemic. As these jobs could not shift online, they were the ones hit the hardest. The employment rate fell by 11.7% in low-wage sectors.
Online habits have formed since the onset of COVID, and now some still do not feel safe enough to go out in public. The demand for some in-person services has not yet returned to normal.
Our society is sadly shaped in such a way that a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 employment discrimination fell upon women. Why is that?
As the whole world shut down, that included educational institutions, daycare centers, after-school programs, and other extra-curricular service locations. As a result, children had to spend their days at home. The entire responsibility shifted to parents alone and while that includes fathers too, outdated societal roles placed a significantly larger burden on women who had to either cut down their hours or left their jobs altogether.
Employment for women plummeted 13% between March and early April – from 59% employed to 46%. It is believed that a net 2.4 million women (as opposed to 1.8 million men) left the workforce in the first year of COVID on their own accord, rather than being forced to resign. Some single mothers did not have fathers to rely upon for childcare. Unfortunately, these women were among those impacted the most.
Additionally, nearly half of the women affected work in low-wage sectors such as hospitality and leisure that were hit the hardest. It is these women who did not go to college that suffered the most due to COVID. Having been put out of a job, it has been increasingly harder for them to get back into the workforce, due to lowered demand. Affordable and high-quality childcare is still hard to find and the dependency of toddlers on their parents after staying together for more than a year is not helping either.
People of Color and Immigrants
It is immigrants and people of color that make up the majority of the hospitality sector, making them the prime target for COVID-19 employment discrimination. For instance, the proportion of Hispanic women that form the hospitality sector is higher than any other social group. Additionally, the pandemic-driven social and psychological factors have been much higher among people of color.
Both, Black and Asian people, have faced exponentially higher racism in the last year, the latter wrongfully lamed for the outbreak of this virus. They were barely considered for the already limited positions and even now that the opportunities are limited, the positions are much more competitive.
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How Can You Recover?
If you are one of those people who faced the brunt of Covid-19 employment impact and are unable to find an alternate job, short-term solutions include helpful government benefits such as unemployment, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). For a more permanent solution, however, you can use solutions such as Apptree to bridge the gap between you and an employer. Saying ‘get a job’ is easier said than done, but a lot of people already have the required skills. They are just unable to find any vacancies and that is where Apptree comes in, connecting you with various industries that offer competitive pay and benefits in both short-term and long-term positions.