The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on all aspects of life. Though its effect on the health of Americans has headlined the news since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, its impact on the economy — especially on Americans’ ability to work – has made plenty of headlines of its own.
To determine just how much of an effect the pandemic has had on employment, GOBankingRates looked at the 10 most common jobs in the United States. Starting with employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2019, the review set out to see how those jobs have fared over the past 11 months and look at their projections for their future. This could be important to know if you’re looking for work.
10. General and Operations Managers
- Employment: 2,400,280
- Median Hourly Wage: $48.45
- Median Annual Wage: $100,780
General and operations managers are the highest-paid employees on this list, and they perform a variety of duties for public and private sector organizations. They are in charge of planning, directing an organization’s operations and directing many departments and divisions.
During the pandemic, managers have had to adapt to new business models, such as guiding the transition to a remotely based workforce or figuring out how to accomplish the same goals with fewer employees following layoffs. Despite the altered responsibilities, the job market for this position is expected to grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
9. Waiters and Waitresses
- Employment: 2,579,020
- Median Hourly Wage: $11
- Median Annual Wage: $22,890
The restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. In its annual state of the industry report issued in January, the National Restaurant Association reported that 2.5 million jobs in the restaurant industry were lost, largely due to 11,000 restaurants and bars shutting down for good. According to the report, that was a loss of six years’ worth of growth in the industry.
8. Customer Service Representative
- Employment: 2,919,230
- Median Hourly Wage: $16.69
- Median Annual Wage: $34,710
Though the pandemic has made it harder for many to leave their homes, you still have to buy essentials. Naturally, customers also need someone to talk to when questions need to be answered or returns and exchanges need to be made.
For companies such as Amazon, the pandemic has created a boom in business, and that means customer service reps, who are often remote, are in demand. But the pandemic also has made this already stressful job even more stressful. Still, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a slight decline in the number of jobs this decade as more duties become automated.
7. Laborers and Freight, Stock and Material Movers
- Employment: 2,953,170
- Median Hourly Wage: $14.19
- Median Annual Wage: $29,510
Workers in this category move freight, stock or other materials, or they perform other general labor. And with the pandemic, employment surged in 2020. Amazon added 400,000 jobs, giving the online giant more than 1 million employees as shoppers preferred online to in-store shopping. Walmart hired 400,000 people in the first four months of the pandemic alone, some in stores and some in warehouses. The number of jobs is expected to continue to rise this decade.
6. General Office Clerks
- Employment: 2,956,060
- Median Hourly Wage: $16.37
- Median Annual Wage: $34,040
Office clerks often can be the backbone of a business — whether it be large or small. These workers do everything from answering the phone and preparing items for mailing to getting bills ready and greeting those coming in for an appointment. But performing these duties in a pandemic can be impossible.
During the past 11 months, many of these clerks have been displaced from their offices – either through remote work or layoffs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections call for a decrease in those jobs by 5% between 2019 and 2029. The good news: Because of frequent turnover, there often will be job openings despite the lower number of positions.
5. Registered Nurses
- Employment: 2,982,280
- Median Hourly Wage: $35.24
- Median Annual Wage: $73,300
The pandemic reinforced for Americans the value of the nation’s nurses and other health care professionals as we saw photos of them working round-the-clock to try to save the lives of the thousands of people sickened by COVID-19. The call for registered nurses is expected to continue to grow, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating a 7% increase in the number of nursing jobs between 2019 and 2029.
4. Home Health and Personal Care Aides
- Employment: 3,161,500
- Median Hourly Wage: $12.15
- Median Annual Wage: $25,280
The pandemic brought an increase in the number of jobs for home health and personal care aides. Some people sought to keep their loved ones out of group or nursing homes, and others needed assistance in caring for those who had been released from a hospital quickly to make way for coronavirus patients.The post-pandemic outlook is bright for this profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase in the number of jobs to increase by 34% from 2019 to 2029 as the elderly population continues to grow.
- Employment: 3,617,910
- Median Hourly Wage: $11.38
- Median Annual Wage: $23,660
Cashiers are considered essential employees, and they have been on the job throughout the pandemic at grocery stores, pharmacies and other outlets – all while risking their health and safety. But despite their essential roles during the past year, the job outlook isn’t good. Because of the transition to self-serve checkout stands and the increase of online shopping, the number of cashier jobs is expected to fall a total of 7% between 2019 and 2029, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.
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2. Fast Food and Counter Workers
- Employment: 3,996,820
- Median Hourly Wage: $10.93
- Median Annual Wage: $22,740
Employees of fast-food restaurants have been valuable throughout the pandemic. Even as state governors mandated that people stay home and sit-down restaurants shutter, fast-food stops stayed open, able to at least serve the country through their drive-thru lanes or takeout. Some without drive-thru lanes added curbside pickup for customers who didn’t want a face-to-face transaction. Employment prospects are good, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a 10% increase in job numbers between 2019 and 2029.
1. Retail Salespersons
- Employment: 4,317,950
- Median Hourly Wage: $12.14
- Median Annual Wage: $25,250
Retail jobs were on a steady decline from January 2017 to April 2019, with the industry shedding about 150,000 in that time span. Then the pandemic hit.
As the nation went on pause, Americans turned to online shopping. And as malls reopened, shoppers maintained the trend, both out of convenience and out of fear of mingling with others. Jobs in the retail sector plummeted by 383,000 between February 2020 and January 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
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Mark Shrayber contributed to the reporting for this article.
Methodology: GOBankingRates used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) May 2019 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates to find the 10 most common jobs in America in terms of total employment. Once these jobs were isolated, GOBankingRates found each job’s (1) median hourly pay and (2) median annual pay both sourced from the same dataset. GOBankingRates also found Indeed.com’s (3) hourly wage data for each profession. All data was collected on and up to date as of Feb. 1, 2021. Note: Jobs in the BLS dataset had to fall under the “detailed” category to be considered.