U.S. Reaches Halfway Point for Jobs Recaptured

October 2, 2020
Author: Jay Denton

More than half the jobs lost during the pandemic have now been recaptured.

Approximately 22.2 million jobs were lost in March and April combined, but the 661,000 jobs added in September brings the total jobs recovered over the last five months slightly past the halfway point at 11.4 million. Still, the recovery has been very uneven across cities and industries. While some businesses are thriving, many others are struggling to stay afloat.

September 2020 Jobs Report Numbers

Passing the halfway mark is positive news, but the pace of gains moderated significantly in September. The average monthly gain in July and August was more than 1.6 million per month. The unemployment rate declined to 7.9%, but tens of millions remain unemployed. Average hourly earnings are were up 4.7% in September on an annualized basis, but economic stimulus is critical. Challenges will persist until COVID-19 is under control.

Jobs Report Chart September
September 2020 Jobs Report table dashboard

(Survey Reference Week September 6-12)

Why It Matters: Key Business Impact

While we see economic activity toward recovery, ThinkWhy projects bumpy months ahead while the country awaits a vaccine, and we see how the cold months impact viral outbreaks. Until then, look for certain industries and occupations to rebound more quickly than others.

Watch for additional fiscal stimulus still being debated, as this will drive consumer confidence and spending. Recruitment for the following types of businesses will likely remain more robust than others through the fall:

  • Retail (some seasonal)
  • Finance and insurance
  • Home delivery services
  • Grocery stores
  • Computer equipment
  • Utilities
  • Federal government
  • Housing construction
  • Scientific research and development

As businesses and talent acquisition professionals plan for recovery and growth, LaborIQ by ThinkWhy advises to:

  • Keep a pulse on labor market performance and where hiring is increasing, and projected recoveries. These markets are where business growth and expansion opportunities exist.
  • Expand talent searches to different parts of the country to find more diverse candidates.
  • Stay current on market salary demands. Wage growth has remained strong during the pandemic, especially for many skilled labor occupations.

Industry Movement & Recovery

(Survey Reference Week 6-12)

Industry infographic September 2020


The LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy base forecast is for the labor market to be back to its pre-pandemic level by mid-to-late 2023. Several industries are poised to recover even faster, while a few others could lag the 2023 time frame by up to two years. This projection is based on moderate growth during the upcoming fall and winter seasons, followed by more sustained and strong job growth beginning in mid-2021.

The following list shows when each industry is expected to return to its pre-pandemic employment level, as well as some factors to monitor for its success.


  • Construction – Starts for single-family housing were up 4.1% in August from a month prior, and homebuilder sentiment jumped as the NAHB survey index increased 5 points to 83 in September.
  • Financial Activities – This industry is growing in many cities, including Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas, Sacramento, Charlotte and Las Vegas.
  • Government – State and local governments are the concern for this group as the pandemic’s effects could impact them for years.
  • Healthcare – As elective and preventive procedures return to normal scheduling, healthcare will remain one of the most in-demand due to an aging baby boomer population.
  • Professional and Business – Projected to be the strongest-performing sector by the end of 2022.
  • Trade, Transportation and Utilities – Airlines recently announced significant layoffs, which could negatively impact the timing of this sector’s recovery. In September, TSA traveler throughput was down approximately 67% on average from the year before. While some retail has fared well, the decision for the next round of stimulus will impact the sector’s trajectory into the holiday season.


  • Manufacturing – Recent indicators for this sector have been positive but slower than in recent months.


  • Mining and Logging – The energy sector has gone through multiple disruptions over the last several years, and slower growth is currently projected as it stabilizes.


  • Leisure and Hospitality – This timeline has a lot of potential to change quickly, especially for travel and dining. But, with the virus still not yet under control, businesses in this industry continue to face significant risks.

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