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2021 Job Growth Off to a Slow Start in U.S.

Massive divide in amount of available talent

ThinkWhy, a SaaS company helping businesses navigate the labor market, released its national jobs report following an announcement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that the economy added 49,000 jobs in January, with the unemployment rate falling to 6.3 percent. 

Today’s report shows muted growth with 49,000 jobs added in January compared to the stronger recovery in the summer and early fall of 2020. The rise in COVID-19 cases and tightening restrictions during last year’s holiday season lingered into 2021, and certain at-risk industries continued to face the brunt of the challenges caused by the pandemic.

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Leisure and Hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels and entertainment, continued to shed jobs in January. While overall employment gain was 49,000 for all industries, Leisure and Hospitality lost 61,000 jobs and the rest of the job market gained 110,000.

“There is a massive divide in the amount of available talent based on the type of job – high-wage versus low-wage, white-collar versus blue-collar,” said Jay Denton, Chief Innovation Officer and SVP of Business Intelligence for ThinkWhy. “Many high-skilled roles such as architecture, engineering, and technology have unemployment rates of 3.0% or less. Service-related jobs, particularly those that rely on face-to-face interactions such as food preparation and serving, still have double-digit unemployment rates.”

The number of Americans unemployed fell to 6.3% in January, but the rate varies dramatically depending on the occupation.

  • Computer and Mathematical (2.4%)
  • Community and Social Service (2.9%)
  • Healthcare Practitioners and Technical occupations (2.0%)
  • Food Preparation and Serving Related (16.5%)
  • Personal Care and Service (14.2%)
  • Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance occupations (10.4%)

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Despite the current economic climate, efforts to rein in COVID-19 and increase vaccinations are expected to eventually result in positive momentum. “The second half of the year should see a significant surge in hiring in those occupations most impacted by the pandemic,” added Denton.

While virus counts are decelerating in many areas and vaccine rollouts are projected to increase in pace, more infectious strains of COVID-19 add a degree of uncertainty to how quickly we can reach a turning point.

For now, the expectation of a significant rebound in the second half of 2021 is still the best scenario. The strength of the rebound will depend on how quickly we can return closer to normal behaviors and whether businesses are able to ramp up hiring as revenue growth accelerates.

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