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The industries that are recovering quickly amid the pandemic


  • Employment is not recovering from the coronavirus pandemic at the same pace across different industries. 
  • Some of the industries that were hit the hardest at the beginning of the pandemic, such as retail, have recovered most of their job losses in recent months.  
  • Business Insider applied the same method that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics used in a September analysis to find the share of recovery for detailed industries and subsectors.
  • The following subsectors have recovered the highest share of jobs lost since the beginning of the pandemic, and eight of them have a higher number of employment gains since April than there were losses in March and April.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the economy continues to rebound from its low point in the spring, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that some industries have recovered faster than others. 

Friday’s monthly employment situation release from the BLS shows that about 55% of the nearly 22.2 million jobs lost in March and April have come back by October. 

But recovery has varied across industries, with many high-paying sectors seeing less of an employment decline than lower-wage jobs. We looked at the percent change in employment between February and October across detailed industries. Based on our findings, subsectors that typically pay less per hour have not come close to their pre-pandemic levels, while those that typically pay more per hour have seen little to no percent change. That is, some low-paying subsectors have been hit the hardest hit amid the pandemic.

The following chart highlights the percent change from February to October across different selected groups within industries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics along its vertical axis. We also included hourly wage data from the BLS as of May 2019 along the horizontal axis:

Subsectors in the financial services industry are close to their level of employment from February. On the other hand, performing arts and spectator sports is still 41.5% below employment in February, a slight improvement from the 46.1% decline as of September. Another notable increase was in the transit and ground passenger transportation subsector, which includes chartered buses and taxis. Employment in October was 25.5% below employment in February, five percentage points higher than the percent change from February to September. 

Using job gains as a share of job losses to estimate recovery

BLS published an article in mid-September using data up until August, showing which major industry sectors have seen the most job recovery so far. Of the major industries BLS analyzed, retail trade has recovered the most, at 72.5% by August. That is, 72.5% of jobs lost between February and April have came back by August in this major industry.

Per Marketplace, economists from ZipRecruiter and Navy Federal Credit Union found leisure and hospitality, retail, construction, and manufacturing are all rebounding amid the pandemic recession. 

Business Insider decided to take BLS’ analysis a step further and look at job recovery for detailed industries. To do this, we used the same method, looking at the number of job gains between the low in April and the newly released October figures as a percent share of the jobs lost from February to April.

Eight of these detailed industries have actually had more jobs added between April to October than there were job losses between February to April. This is reflected in a greater than 100% recovery from the decline using our metric. For instance, employment in general merchandise stores have recovered by 149% because there have been 265,300 jobs added since April, compared to the 177,500 jobs lost between February and April.

Overall, industries are likely to recover at different rates. ThinkWhy released a report detailing when they expect various industries to recover to pre-pandemic levels, as well as which jobs will be looking to recruit this fall. Based on changes in employment from pre-pandemic levels, ThinkWhy believes industries like construction and financial activities will recover by 2022. 

Jay Denton, senior vice president of business intelligence and chief innovation officer at ThinkWhy said until there is a vaccine, it will be hard for some other industries to recover, such as hotels.

“There is a whole set of business lines out there that until we get a vaccine and we can all return to something closer to normal, getting those types of jobs back are going to be difficult,” Denton told Business Insider.

However, hiring was up in some industries last month. LinkedIn data shows that hiring is up by 15.5% from September to October, but last month’s hiring is still below last year’s levels. Indeed data similarly shows a slow increase in postings but still far below last year’s figures.

And although some industries have recovered a portion of their jobs, many are still below pre-pandemic employment as noted in the chart above. The following are selected detailed subsectors that have recovered at least 60% of their declines based on preliminary data from the latest employment figures. We also included each sector’s May 2019 hourly earnings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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