Cities Going Against the COVID Grain – In a Good Way

September 29, 2020
Author: Glenn Hunter and Jonathan Blair

Massive U.S. unemployment, caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, has created a ripple effect which continues to impact our economy, with unemployed people still outnumbering job openings in all 50 states. Job postings are down significantly compared to 2019, Axios reports – by as much as 46% in Hawaii and by nearly 30% in such big states as New York, Illinois and California. Based on the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more people are getting hired than are leaving or being involuntarily separated, but the gap between the two categories is narrowing, portending a prolonged recovery.

Despite massive unemployment, certain cities and industries have taken huge strides toward pre-pandemic employment levels.

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places are part of the Leisure and Hospitality supersector, which nationally lost nearly 4 million jobs, or 23.2% of its employment base, between August 2019 and August 2020. During the same period, employment in the food services and drinking places sector itself fell nationally by 18.7%. However, employment in this sector increased by 7.5% in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. It also was up in Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana, where the sector grew by 2.8%, and in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where it increased by 1.1%.

Food Services and Drinking Places Chart


Nationally, manufacturing lost 718,000 jobs, or 5.6% of its employment base, between August 2019 and August 2020. But a handful of locations apparently didn’t get the memo. Two of them – Austin-Round Rock, Texas and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colorado – rank among LaborIQ by ThinkWhy’s top 50 cities (by population size) and are among nine areas showing robust manufacturing growth during the period.

Manufacturing chart

Related: Austin, New York and Tucson Top Hiring Lists

Clothing and Clothing Accessories

Clothing and clothing accessories is part of the Retail Trade sector, which nationally lost 598,000 jobs, or 3.8% of its employment base, between August 2019 and August 2020. While clothing and clothing accessories itself lost a whopping 29.4% of its jobs nationally during the period, the subsector added jobs in the Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas metropolitan division and in Cincinnati, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana.

Clothing Accessories chart

Prospects for Success, With a Few Caveats

It’s clear, despite a recovery that seems to be cooling, many employers have been hiring in selective sectors in locations large and small, from Santa Rosa, California and Boise City, Idaho to Cincinnati and Northern Virginia. But continued hiring in the clothing space and in restaurants and bars, for example, could hinge on additional stimulus checks and establishments remaining open, while robustness in manufacturing will depend on strong supply chains amid the pandemic.

Meantime, though, recruitment firms and hiring managers should prepare to receive more applications in these locations and sectors from job seekers looking to transfer their skills from industries and cities that have fared less well.

ThinkWhy continuously monitors and forecasts labor data at all levels, measuring impact to MSAs, industries, occupations and business across the U.S.