After COVID, College Grads Hoping to Join These 9 Industries May Have the Hardest Time Finding Work

After COVID, College Grads Hoping to Join These 9 Industries May Have the Hardest Time Finding Work


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May 19, 2024 at 2:34AM UTC
  • As many as 37% of companies have frozen hiring.
  • Government-aided efforts to help retain existing workers and bring back furloughed ones after COVID may not leave much room (or many jobs) for fresh college grads.
  • College seniors should prepare to be flexible, and to remember that your first job after graduating doesn't matter as much as you'd think.

In May, tens of thousands of students will (virtually) graduate from college and enter the workforce, many of them for the first time. And the job market that they’ll be joining is far from a welcoming one. 

With unemployment claims continuing to escalate with history-making speed and hiring freezes happening at as many as 37% of companies, it’s hard not to see the prospects for most entry-level candidates as grim. Although there’s still reason to hope that the government’s $2 trillion stimulus package will help buffer some of COVID’s blows for businesses, much of that aid will be directed at retaining existing workers or bringing back furloughed ones. Those hoping to be new hires at these companies, it stands to reason, may have a tougher time.

That won’t be the case for all industries, however, with experts positioning certain jobs as being relatively “recession-proof.” Other companies are actually increasing their hiring efforts as a result of the pandemic in a bid to meet new forms of consumer demand, and there’s reason still to hope that the government’s stimulus package will help buffer COVID’s blows for many other businesses. A lot remains hanging in the balance. But early projections do indicate a bleaker outlook for a certain handful of industries — and for the college grads hoping to join them. 

While this economic downturn, much like the 2008 recession, will ultimately pass, new workers planning to enter the following nine industries may benefit from keeping a Plan B in mind. (A word to the worried, though — the first job you take after graduating college might matter less in the long run than you think.)

1. Airlines 

According to the International Air Transport Association, the global airline industry could lose up to $113 billion as a result of the coronavirus, with $21 billion of that loss specific to America and Canada. Cuts to existing staff at most airlines have already unfolded and have been severe, with Norweigian Airlines, for instance, laying off a whopping 90% of its staff on March 16. 

2. Hospitality

Prior to COVID, more than 11% of all American jobs were in leisure and hospitality. Now, the once-booming industry is considered to be one of the likeliest to face lasting financial repercussions in the nation’s new economy. In the hotel business alone, as many as 4 million U.S. jobs are forecasted to be lost, resulting in a $300 billion hit to the GDP.

3. Food & beverage services

Restaurants and bars, specifically, were among the first businesses to be hit by the pandemic, as city and state governments issued sweeping closures. At the end of March, the National Restaurant Association predicted that the industry could lose up to $225 billion and 5-7 million jobs in the next three months.

4. Energy 

Oil prices have plummeted following a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and the New York Times has reported that oil companies are “collapsing.” While renewable energy use is up and business is expected to keep growing overall, that sector hasn’t been entirely sheltered from COVID, either; The Solar Energy Industries Association estimated that half of its 250,000 workers could lose their jobs as a result of business lost from the virus.

5. Automobiles 

Many automakers have suspended their production of vehicles, as sheltered-at-home consumers — many of whom are out of work or otherwise anxious over the future of their finances — aren’t likely to make a big-ticket purchase like a new car. J.D. Power has projected the industry could see a decline of up to 3 million vehicles sold this year, impacting the job security of automaker and dealership workers.

6. Human resources & employment services

Prior to COVID, about 3.6 million Americans worked in employment services. But for companies that are freezing hiring, this also means a cut to HR and recruiting budgets, and increased job insecurity for the workers who fill these functions. 

7. Health care 

Although hospital employment has remained technically flat since the start of the outbreak, this fails to capture staffing nuances between departments, as workers who specialize in elective operations, for instance, have already been subject to layoffs. Meanwhile, outside of hospitals, dental offices and doctors’ offices have already reported a collective loss of close to 30,000 workers since the outbreak began. 

8. Retail 

Retail has been hit especially hard by the pandemic’s non-essential store closures, and in what’s guaranteed to remain a shaky economy, businesses that depend on consumers with extra spending money lining their pockets aren’t likely to fare well. Of course, this is speaking mostly to retail that relies on brick-and-mortar operations. Online retailers that specialize in virtual shopping and delivery options, especially of essential household goods, are poised to emerge from the pandemic in a far healthier place.

9. Construction 

Lost projects, closed construction sites and cut payrolls are making for an especially shaky job market within the construction industry. The interconnectedness of global supply chain markets has led to a host of disruptions for many industries, including construction. Commercial builders that relied on Chinese-made materials, for instance, have already had to navigate higher material costs and pushed-back project timelines, and as more projects are canceled, an estimated 7.6 million Americans’ jobs in the construction sector could be impacted.

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