In May, job loss in the U.S. reached levels we haven’t seen since the Great Depression, with the unemployment rate propelling to 14.7%. Though there has been significant improvement since then, with the October unemployment rate hovering at 6.9%, COVID-19 has yet to go away, and all signs point to an increasingly deadly winter that could lead to more economic fallout.
Though few if any industries (with the exception of big tech) have been completely spared by the pains of the pandemic, some have been more catastrophically hit than others. The restaurant industry, for instance, was nearly wiped out during the first round of lockdowns, and many eateries didn’t make it through to reopening. Now, as the weather cools and the virus cases rise, restaurants are wrangling with new restrictions including capacity limitations and curfews. Without federal aid, we’re sure to see many more restaurants and bars close their doors forever.
Despite adding 789,000 jobs in the past six months, the construction industry is still struggling to meet pre-COVID-19 employment levels. Employment is down by 294,000 since February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The drop-off in the construction sector is due to a few factors including a slowdown in the supply chain of goods, the cancellation of projects and — depending on the location — the ruling of construction as a nonessential business. The $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act passed by Congress in July has helped rejuvenate this pummeled sector.
Many theme parks reopened with restrictions in the U.S., while others remain shuttered due to the pandemic. California, home to Universal Studios and Disneyland, has yet to see any of its famous parks reopen as they remain indefinitely closed under the orders of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Running Disneyland is exorbitantly expensive, even when it’s not open, and the costs have been a harsh blow to Disney, which has laid off 28,000 Disneyland employees and furloughed at least 43,000 workers with plans to furlough more amid the latest surges of COVID-19 cases. Just how theme parks can survive COVID-19 remains to be seen.
With the international tourism industry down significantly, hotels are struggling to stay afloat. An analysis from the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) published on Aug. 31 found that nearly 4 out of 10 hotel employees were still not working at the time the report was compiled. Additionally, the analysis found that some 65% of hotels were at or below a 50% occupancy rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has maintained strict guidance for hotels, including advising housekeeping to wait 24 hours before entering a room after someone sick has been in the room.
According to Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the AHLA, as of late August, there was no sign of a recovery in sight.
Part of the reason that hotel occupancy is down is because travel, in general, is down, and though all travel has been impacted by COVID-19, air travel has been all but decimated. As of Oct. 8, 43 commercial airlines have gone out of business since January, and experts are not particularly optimistic about the immediate future. “Without government intervention and support we would have had mass bankruptcies in the first six months of this crisis. Instead, we have had a manageable number of bankruptcies and very few collapses,” Brendan Sobie, an independent analyst at Sobie Aviation, told CNBC. Tens of thousands of airline workers have lost their jobs and more will as the need for federal aid intensifies.
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Casinos, with their crowded slot machines, boozed-up patrons and clouds of cigarette smoke, aren’t made to prosper during a global pandemic, and COVID-19 has proven as much. Both commercial and tribal casinos closed when the virus struck, and though most have reopened since then, there are heavy rules and regulations in place including reduced capacity. The scope of the loss in casino revenue varies based on place. Detroit’s casinos drew in some $300 million in combined revenues through the end of July, 64% less compared to last year, CBS reported. The casino industry is vying for tax and regulatory relief from the government as it aims to recover.
COVID-19 wasn’t created on a cruise ship, but that’s where it spread like viral wildfire in the early days of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Though the CDC lifted its “no sail” order in late October, the new rules cruise lines must meet to resume operations are extensive and ships will remain docked through at least the end of the year. According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIN), the cruise industry accounts for 1.17 million jobs worldwide, with up to 2,500 jobs lost each day that cruises are not operating during COVID-19.
Retail was experiencing woes well before but the COVID-19 lockdowns pushed the struggling sector into deeper trouble. Under shelter-in-place orders, millions of Americans hit online marketplaces like Amazon to buy essentials like groceries, cleaning supplies and, of course, toilet paper. According to the National Retail Federation, more than 1 in 4 American jobs were supported by the retail industry before the pandemic struck. Today, many of those workers are out of a job or have had to find work elsewhere. In October, the retail sector added 104,000 jobs, but the industry is still 499,000 jobs shy of its pre-pandemic level in February.
The Public Sector
The public sector has been rocked by the pandemic, with employment levels plummeting to Great Depression-era levels. As of July, approximately 1.5 million jobs in education and other areas of state and local government were cut. The October jobs report from the BLS showed government employment declining by 268,000 jobs. Local governments are in desperate need of federal aid to avoid more job loss and to rebuild communities that have been scorched by the pandemic.
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