The Next Round of COVID Layoffs is Coming — And These 5 Industries Are Most At-Risk

The Next Round of COVID Layoffs is Coming — And These 5 Industries Are Most At-Risk


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May 20, 2024 at 2:37AM UTC

As any quick glance at this country’s rapidly climbing COVID numbers will tell you — the pandemic is far from over. 

The U.S. currently leads the world in total number of confirmed coronavirus cases, clocking in at 3.5 million as of mid-July. And as many states continue to forge ahead with their economic reopening plans, regardless of caseloads — and officials in some even continue to refute the worthwhileness of face mask mandates — things are only set to get more dire. For many, this could result in yet more job loss. 

Although June brought with it some positive indicators of economic recovery, with 4.8 million in growth added to U.S. payrolls, there were still 15 million fewer jobs than in February. And now that the spectre of further lockdowns and the rolling back of reopening plans looms, some believe that a new round of layoffs and furloughs could be on the horizon. Looking at the hospitality industry, for instance, the data firm Womply found that the ratio of bars and restaurants that have re-closed in states like Texas, Florida and Tennessee is steadily climbing. 

For many people who’d been brought back to work after having been let go at the start of the pandemic, the result is a second job loss. But many have continued to remain out of work altogether. As of mid-July, only one in three people who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic have returned to work. 

If things continue in this direction, experts believe that the following five industries will be at risk of further layoffs in the near future.

1. Media

Print and digital publishers — many of whom were already on shaky ground prior to the pandemic — are having to contend with a loss of advertising revenue. That was cited as the reason Vox Media laid off 6% of its workforce in July. 

2. Food and beverage 

After months of having been shut down, the grand reopening plans of many restaurants and bars were ultimately short lived. As states pause certain elements of their reopening efforts in response to their spike in cases, bars and restaurants are among the first businesses affected. Indoor dining has been cut from reopening plans in the former COVID hotspot of New York, for instance, and in states like Florida and Texas, bars have been ordered closed or are prohibited from selling alcohol. All of this will result in additional job losses for these service industry workers. 

3. IT

Barring the possibility of returning to the office for many workers, support functions, like IT roles, are likely to be cut as companies contend with their remote work arrangements becoming more than temporary fixes. And as some organizations and especially small businesses ultimately opt to get rid of their office leases as a cost-saving measure, this is even likelier to be true. 

4. Government 

Despite the usual security of jobs within state and city governments, many of these workers already saw significant job losses during the first and especially second waves of COVID layoffs. And yet, this sector is likely to experience a ripple effect of further cuts as new budgets are drawn to reflect revenue losses and the closure of some government programs and projects. 

5. Education 

As the summer builds toward a close, plans for a staggering majority of schools come the fall continue to hang in the balance, across states. In California, school campuses will remain closed and classes will be conducted exclusively online, but other states are waiting to make a similar call, even as their caseloads climb. In states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, in-person classes are set to resume in the fall, but only if certain requirements are met by the start of August. And even if these campuses do indeed open, they’ll take a different form; in New York City, for instance, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that students will attend in-person classes only one to three days a week, with no more than 12 people present in a classroom at once, including teachers and aides. 

With so much uncertainty still at play, and the likelihood of further school closures almost certain given current infection rates, more cuts to roles within education and especially higher education are possible. This, when the start of the pandemic already saw a loss of 500,000 public education jobs. The next round of layoffs could impact not only teachers and school administrators, but those whose work depends upon the presence of students at physical campuses, as well, like certain service workers. And as schools grapple with a loss of revenue from the absence of collegiate sports this year, this pattern could only be amplified. 

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