SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as 99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month.

'Signs of stabilization': Hiring picks up in these industries as coronavirus layoffs ease and states reopen

Paul Davidson
USA TODAY

Even as COVID-19-related layoffs remain at historically bleak levels, another trend is quietly taking root: Businesses are starting to hire again.

All 50 states have begun allowing nonessential businesses to reopen in phases, prompting restaurants, shops, hair salons and others to rehire at least some of the employees they laid off or furloughed to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Many small businesses received federal loans that are forgivable as long as they retain or rehire staffers.

Job postings in those and other industries are also picking up, underscoring that firms seek to tap a broader pool of workers, including the roughly 30 million Americans who are unemployed. Hiring in fields that have benefited from the pandemic is surging.

The economy unexpectedly added 2.5 million jobs in May as employers rehired laid-off workers, the Labor Department reported Friday. Eight million payroll losses were expected. Although 9.3 million workers lost jobs last month, 13.1 million went back to work, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Morgan Stanley.

The unemployment rate fell to 13.3% from 14.7%

A reality check: Overall hiring of new employees is still depressed. Total job postings on Glassdoor fell 5% in May, but that followed a 30% plunge in April from early March.

“We have signs of stabilization, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” says Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao.

Still, “we’re seeing companies now get more focused on the future,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half International.

Another sign hiring is bubbling back to life is that the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits totaled 21.5 million the week ending May 23, up from the prior week but down from 25 million earlier in the month, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Pensions doomed? Are public pensions at risk because of the coronavirus pandemic? State, local budgets feel pain

More layoffs:An additional 1.9 million workers seek jobless benefits as layoffs persist even as states reopen economies

Some employers haven’t been able to bring back the employees they laid off. Some workers may have landed new jobs while others earn more from unemployment checks – which are juiced by a $600 weekly federal supplement during the crisis – than they would from their normal wages.

In May, job postings on Glassdoor increased 6% for restaurants and bars, 3% for beauty and fitness, 7% for travel and tourism and 8% for private security services – needed to serve some of the restaurants, stores and office buildings that reopened, according to data Glassdoor provided exclusively to USA TODAY.

Some industries have thrived during the pandemic. As Americans purchased more groceries amid restaurant closures and ordered their goods online, job postings from early March to mid-May rose more than sevenfold for grocery managers and increased 177% for workers who package goods for delivery, 145% for warehouse managers and 89% for customer service sales representatives.

Job ads for public health advisers, such as consultants who help businesses manage the crisis, shot up 59%, and postings increased by a third for information technology specialists, including experts who help employees set up remote computer networks, the Glassdoor data shows. 

Although demand for some of these positions probably will decrease as the pandemic eases, it’s likely to remain elevated even after states reopen as consumers and employees remain leery of resuming old behaviors, at least until a vaccine is widely available, possibly by the middle of next year.

Bank hiring has increased significantly as low-interest rates spur more mortgage refinancings and employees are needed to handle the crush of demand for the government’s small-business loan program, McDonald of Robert Half says.

More broadly, demand has risen for tech workers, accountants, lawyers and creative directors in industries that are stable or growing, such as e-commerce, health care, financial services and insurance, McDonald says.

Staffing firm Randstad says its clients have increased hiring in banking and finance by 25% compared with pre-crisis levels. Health care systems are starting to bring on workers again as they resume elective surgeries and routine checkups.

A few months ago, when unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5%, companies struggled to find job candidates for those roles, McDonald says. Now, he says, some companies are taking advantage of a big supply of unemployed workers and filling those positions more quickly.

Calling out racism:Ben & Jerry's calls for the dismantling of 'culture of white supremacy'

The demise of public pensions? Are public pensions doomed because of the coronavirus pandemic? State, local budgets feel pain

Hiring, he says, has accelerated in some cases because employers are conducting video instead of in-person interviews and are more receptive to allowing candidates in faraway regions to work remotely. That opens a larger pool of candidates.

“We’re seeing some clients hire more swiftly because more people are available,” McDonald says.

Charter Communications, the cable and broadband giant, said it hired 3,000 employees nationwide, including billing and sales agents, nearly all of them through video interviews amid the pandemic. The company says it's trying to fill thousands of additional openings. The stay-at-home trend has been a boon for cable companies as customers dramatically step up TV viewing and streaming.

“Through the effective use of virtual hiring practices, we have maintained a steady rate of hiring,” says Seth Feit, Charter’s group vice president for Talent.