The Recovery Continues: A Look at Leading and Lagging Industries

August 27, 2020
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Author: Glenn Hunter

When it comes to the U.S. economy, the pandemic-induced lockdown and recession were not equal-opportunity scourges. While some sectors were indeed crippled by the virus’s effects, others have weathered the storm – and even thrived.

Some industries have fared better than others in the current economy.

Although double-digit unemployment persists, U.S. hiring bounced back impressively in recent months. From March through June, a LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy analysis shows American industries hired a whopping 23 million people. Seven major segments of the workforce each hired more than 1 million workers, paced by Leisure and Hospitality, which added 4.3 million; Professional and Business Services, which hired 4 million; and Retail Trade, which added 3.3 million.

Drilling deeper into these figures, some organizations actually boast just as many jobs now as they did in February 2020 – if not more. These resilient businesses include general merchandise stores, makers of computers and peripheral equipment, couriers and messengers, and finance and insurance firms.

Number of Hires by Industry chart
Source: LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy, Bureau of Labor Statistics

After the pandemic hit, many finance and insurance employees transitioned easily into working from home. And couriers and messengers, which provide local delivery of parcels and documents, were in the sweet spot once consumers ramped up online shopping for everything from takeout meals to cat litter for home delivery.

But as noted, not all sectors have been as fortunate. Some organizations, whose functions need to be carried out in person, have seen their employment levels plummet anywhere from 30% to 50% since February. Among them are performing arts and spectator sports, which include actors, singers, and athletes and their agents and managers; accommodations, or lodging establishments, including RV parks; and motion picture and sound recordings, including film and recording producers, distributors and post-production specialists.

Meantime, employment levels at child day-care services, food services and drinking places, and air transportation organizations have plunged by 20% to 30%.

Both these leading and lagging industries provide opportunities for specialists in recruitment and business development. Those looking to boost their company’s sales or hunt for great hires will find the leading industries like general merchandise stores and finance and insurance to be rich targets. Once the lagging sectors, such as performing arts and accommodations, find their footing again, hiring will pick up in those sectors as roles are replaced.

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