When you power down the global economy and reboot it months later, you’re going to break a few things. As we draw closer to marking four years since the first reported COVID-19 case, it’s worth looking at the winners and losers of the pandemic and the wildly uneven recovery in the job market.
Some sectors have been clear beneficiaries of the disruption, both in terms of the number of new jobs, as well as how much they get paid. The surge in e-commerce during the pandemic and massive inflows of venture capital into the tech sector sparked a hiring binge that—despite all the headlines of carnage in the tech sector today now that the tech bubble has burst—has left employment well ahead of where it was before COVID hit. The professional, scientific and technical services sector, which includes many tech workers, is larger by nearly a quarter, and paycheques have grown faster than most other sectors, too. The top earnings winner, the information and cultural sector, is also heavy with tech workers.
In fact, the painful bite of high inflation over the past two years has meant that only four of the sectors shown on the chart actually increased their earnings enough to come out ahead, though construction, manufacturing and public administration (government workers) came closest to keeping pace with soaring consumer prices.
Near the other end of the spectrum, health care and social assistance workers, as well as those in the education sector, have failed to keep pace with inflation, even if the pandemic brought on a surge of hiring in the health care space. The earnings of accommodation and restaurant service workers also fell in inflation-adjusted terms in a sector hit hard by lockdowns. No other industry saw employment shrink as much as hotels and restaurants.
This is a snapshot of two moments in time, but with the economy teetering on the edge of a slowdown, a recession would bring a whole new wave of disruption to the job market. And the pain would not be felt evenly.
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