Occupations for the Future: A Glance at Post-COVID-19 Job Prospects and the Credentials Needed to Secure Them
With the nation’s economy still reeling from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic as 3.8 million Americans are now permanently out of work, it is important to invest in upskilling and reskilling the workforce and to advise secondary learners preparing to enter the workforce on career paths likely to lead to in-demand and high-wage jobs. However, state and local leaders, economists, researchers and business leaders are still working to understand the impact that the coronavirus pandemic will have on employment demand.
The Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) and Burning Glass Technologies launched the Credentials Matter project in 2019 to help stakeholders better understand
industry needs and labor opportunity in the near future and to identify the types of credentials a learner would need for a career in these industries. As part of the project, ExcelinEd published a COVID-19 case study examining the short-term changes in occupation and credential demand by Career ClusterⓇ resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. First, ExcelinEd and Burning Glass identified the Career Clusters most impacted by COVID-19 using U.S. job posting data. Then, ExcelinEd analyzed each Career Cluster using three key occupational factors: a critical worker designation, a physical proximity score, and an automation risk score.
The graph below shows the decline in U.S. job postings by Career Cluster from March to May 2020 compared to the national average of 41 percent. By analyzing the decline in job postings with key occupational factors, ExcelinEd was able to understand the pandemic’s impact on labor market demand by Career Cluster.
The data show that some of the the most durable industries during the coronavirus pandemic were:
Transportation, Distribution and Logistics — This Career Cluster experienced the smallest decline in job postings, with its most stable occupational category — laborers & freight, stock and material movers — actually experiencing a 27 percent increase in job postings during the pandemic. Industrial truck and tractor operators and transportation, storage and distribution managers were the second most stable occupations in this Career Cluster, though job postings for these occupations still declined by 19 percent overall. The overwhelming majority (96 percent) of careers in the cluster were deemed critical to the economy during the pandemic.
Architecture and Construction — This Career Cluster experienced the second smallest decline in job postings, with its most stable occupational category — plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters — experiencing a modest 5 percent increase in job postings during the pandemic. This occupational category was also less vulnerable to automation compared to others. All of the most stable occupations in this Career Cluster were deemed critical to the economy during the pandemic and in many cases pay median annual salaries well above a living wage of $30,000.
Manufacturing — This Career Cluster experienced the fifth smallest decline in job postings. The occupations in this Career Cluster with the largest share of workers experienced a smaller decline in opportunities when compared to the national average. These occupations also pay median annual salaries above a living wage of $30,000 and most require less than a bachelor’s degree for entry.
Based on this analysis, ExcelinEd and Burning Glass suggest education leaders evaluate how the career pathways and credentials offered in their respective states lead to critical occupations with livable wages, how to ensure learners are informed about the potential risks with career pathways that require greater physical proximity, and how career pathways and credentials can be used to guide learners toward jobs likely to survive automation. ExcelinEd also suggests that state leaders examine their licensing policies and any factors that might burden learners such as time, cost and processes.
Labor and education leaders need to understand the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the demand for jobs in order to better advise and prepare learners for the economic recovery. As the data in this report only represent the pandemic’s initial impact on the economy, leaders should consistently monitor labor market data and make adjustments as necessary considering economic conditions are changing rapidly. While much is uncertain about the future, this analysis by ExcelinEd and Burning Glass provides a glimpse into the post-coronavirus job market and raises important questions for leaders to consider as they begin their economic recovery.
Brian Robinson, Policy Associate