The Indicator from Planet Money - Jobs Friday: The Four Labor Markets

For the final jobs report of the year, we break down how different sectors of the economy have handled the pandemic. | Support your NPR member station here.

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Evelyn Stacy in Cardiff here. This is indicator from planet money. Today is the last jobs Friday of 2020 but frankly the news is not good. So we are going to save the traditional blasting of the jobs Friday air horn until the new year. Hopefully this morning at the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the jobs report for the month of November the economy only created 245000 jobs last month. And that is the fifth straight month that the number of jobs created has fallen and it means they're still 9.8 million fewer jobs in the economy than there were before the pandemic or to put it another way. If every month from now on is like November it would take more than three years to get back all the jobs that were lost in the pandemic and hopefully it won't take that long with a vaccine on the way. But for now there is still just a lot of suffering from job loss out there. And since it is the last jobs report of 20/20. We are also in the mood.

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You reflect on more than just the past month. How should we regard the astonishing frankly terrible events in the labor market for the year as a result of the pandemic Jed? Kolko. He is the chief Economist at Indeed job search website. I have a bigger surprise. This year is actually a relief a relief that the labor market is not in worse shape than it is right. Now a lot of people really expected that unemployment would be higher job losses will be steeper and incomes would be lower at this point in a year than they actually are things are bad, but they could have been even worse. That's a survey of economic forecasters back in May predicted that the unemployment rate would be around 11% at the end of this year. And right now is it about 6.7% so still really high but better than I thought it also says that the hits of Labor Market this year has fallen unevenly on the population and on the US economy and so he is broken down the economy into

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Four different labor markets the sectors of the labor market that have actually won this year the sectors that are in recovery the sectors that are damaged and the sectors that are on pause and he's going to get us through each of those four different parts of labor market right after a quick break.

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Driving jobs are jobs that get Goods to people in their homes with more people ordering goods online chat says it makes sense that jobs would increase for people who work in the warehouses that stock those goods. There is more demand for that work same thing for the drivers who deliver those goods to people other winning sectors jobs in grocery stores and big merchandise stores, like Costco and Walmart where people go to buy those goods if they bring home, what's the construction sector partly because a lot of people have moved into new bigger houses that needed to be built and partly because other people have spent a lot of money renovating their homes to make them nicer places to spend a lot of time in it's not surprising that the sectors have been stronger this year than other sectors but bigger surprise is not which sectors have done best, but that they've actually grown during this. Remember earlier. This year was brutal it hit most of the economy but enough people were still willing and able

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Spend money that these winning sectors in just keep the business. They had they got more business. They got bigger. That's right and next up the sectors that did lose a ton of jobs earlier in the year, but have now regained a lot of those jobs sectors are the ones that are really driving the biggest swings that we've seen in the date of this year at the start of the pandemic, but now they have at least partially reopened restaurants clothing stores and also services that operate for a long. Of time like hair salons, but have reopened and had actually bounced back as people are getting those Services if they had deferred earlier in the year. These are all sensitive to actually getting the virus itself under control because in places where the virus is surging again, these sectors are at constant risk of being shut down again, and that's a big deal.

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The workers because detent to be low paying jobs and these are also the sectors where people are hired and fired very quickly. So the workers are just in a constantly precarious position next up the sectors of the economy that are damaged air travel a lot of Tourism the Arts Entertainment Sports, but unlike the rebounding sectors, they haven't bounced back for the most part. They haven't reopened and employment remains far below brief endemic levels in these damaged sectors sectors damaged partly because they disproportionately require big crowds of people going to live sporting events watching movies and plays seeing a popular Museum exhibit these activities often require indoor places with huge crowds. And so it's hard for these sectors to recover and start hiring people until the virus itself is under control unlike hair salons or even restaurants which

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Reopen in one city, but stay closed in another some of these damaged sectors require the virus to be under control everywhere. But the damage sectors of the most part involve travel people, places. It is larger than just the local labor market and Sao opening up the damage sectors depends not just on the virus being under control in the local area. But at a national or even Global level of the labor market the paused sectors of the economy jobs like to call services are for the most part people can work pretty productively from home. These parts actors tend to higher higher wage workers who may have their specialized skills are might be highly technical the detectors. We're hiring cost a lot.

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Takes longer people stay in the rolls for longer than in restaurants are in retail sectors that are gun-shy there going to be more hesitant to hire until they have longer-term confidence and direction of the economy. There was less firing initially and there was also less hiring now. There's just less overall church and there you have it the story of the US Labor Market this year has really been at least four different stories more like a short story collection that it coherent novel and poor stories that if we might add the dark short Story collection, very dark short Story collection indeed. Yeah.

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This episode of the indicator was produced by Jamila Huxtable and fact-checked by Sean Saldana Patty Hirsch is our editor and the indicator is a production of NPR.
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