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COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with “business as usual” six months after the coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency in the U.S. Unemployment claims have declined from their peaks in April and May, but COVID-19’s resurgence is casting a cloud of economic uncertainty. While brick-and-mortar jobs disrupted by the pandemic are starting to bounce back, digitally-enabled jobs of the future face a longer road to recovery.

The open question remains: How long can companies endure “survival-only” mode without investing in future-oriented strategies and job roles? As companies cut, trim and otherwise drive toward becoming as lean as possible, they may risk cutting too close to the bone. Doing so could spur a vicious cycle, in which cuts beget more cuts, and the unbridled hunt for efficiency detracts from the focus on structural changes occurring in the marketplace.

At some point, more companies will invest in new jobs that emerge from a mentality of experimentation rather than desperation, and that broadly complement, rather than replace, existing jobs.

An existential crisis

The performance gap between traditional and digital jobs can be seen in the Cognizant Jobs of the Future (CJoF) Index, which tracks quarterly demand for 50 digitally-enabled jobs of the future identified by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. COVID-19 has consistently had a more severe impact on the CJoF Index than on the All Burning Glass Jobs Index throughout 2020. For the most recent quarter, the CJoF Index posted a sharp quarter-on-quarter decline of 11.2%, falling from 1.46 in Q2 to 1.29 in Q3. The All Burning Glass Jobs Index, by contrast, posted a quarter-on-quarter jump of 17.8%, from 1.30 in Q2 to 1.54 in Q3.

This is the first time since the CJOF Index’s creation in the fourth quarter of 2016 that it has diverged from the All Burning Glass Jobs Index, with the CJoF Index declining by 43,000 job postings and the All Burning Glass Jobs Index increasing by 1.38 million job postings quarter-on-quarter. The dichotomy between the CJoF Index and the broader economy spotlights a short-term shift in corporate focus away from digital growth to business survival. At the same time, market uncertainty is causing companies to be more frugal with their budgets and conservative in their investments.

According to a recent Cognizant survey of 500 senior U.S. executives, 54% have faced major reductions in corporate budgets during the pandemic, and an equal percentage have shifted their investments away from a growth strategy to business continuity. In addition, 35% cut their digital budgets, and 30% scaled back their digital transformation plans. The drop in the CJOF Index reflects these corporate course corrections.

The essential work of fitness and wellness

In addition to total job openings, the CJoF Index also monitors trends in eight job families. Whereas all eight families realized declines quarter-on-quarter in Q2, five families rebounded in Q3 over the prior quarter: Fitness and Wellness (+42.8%), Legal and Financial (+7% ), Environmental (+7%), Work Culture (+5%) and Healthcare (+5%). Three families – Transport (-20%), Algorithms, Automation and AI (-13%) and Customer Experience (-5%) – continued their decline in postings from the second quarter. 

In the Fitness and Wellness family, the strong growth of job postings for Home Health Aides (+69.1%) and Caregiver/Personal Care Aides (+49.0%) led the way. Both job categories are considered “essential” due to their provision of care to the elderly or disabled persons, and these workers were able to continue operations under stay-at-home orders. At-home health services are becoming increasingly important for elderly and disabled persons as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. As technology becomes more critical to fitness and wellness, job candidates will require familiarity with the latest digital technology innovations, including remote monitoring and improvements in digital interoperability. These advancements allow caregivers to obtain and actively report vital signs, symptoms and other health information to remote providers or related agencies, which is particularly crucial as telehealth expands further during the crisis.

Over the year, the Fitness and Wellness family continued to lead the families in growth (+155%), galvanized again by the strong year-over-year growth in job postings for Home Health Aides (+294% ) and Caregiver/Personal Care Aides (+290%).

Of the other occupations in the Fitness and Wellness job family, the proxy job Fitness Commitment Counselor (representing a job of the future) saw continued growth over the quarter (+18%) and over the year (+8%). Conversely, Family/Behavioral Therapists posted decreases both over the quarter (-32%) and over the year (-28%). While the mental health crisis arising from COVID-19 and the lockdown has become a topic of political discussion, many clinics and hospitals have restricted in-person delivery of non-emergency health services.

Four other families – Legal and Financial Services (+7%), Environmental (+7%), Work Culture (+5%) and Healthcare (+5%) – realized modest gains in postings over the quarter. However, only two of them – Healthcare (+14.2%) and Legal and Financial Services (+0.6%) – registered year-over-year growth.

Over the year, the fastest-growing jobs within the Healthcare family were Genetic Counselor (+106%), Registered Nurse (+56%) and Biostatistician (+26%). Many healthcare professionals have turned to telehealth to provide vital services to patients during the shutdown. Genetic counselors used telehealth services even before the pandemic, which eased the transition from in-person to remote delivery. Registered nurses and emergency health professionals have worked on the front lines, treating the surge of patients needing care for COVID-19.

Not surprisingly, the Transport family had the largest quarter-on-quarter decline, of 21%, led by the reduction in postings for Aerospace Engineers (-35.1%) and Urban/Transportation Planners (-1.2%). Statewide travel restrictions and stay-at-home ordinances have hurt both public transportation and aviation. Air travel and ridership on public transportation fell sharply at the pandemic’s peak due to restrictions on operations and capacity as well as safety concerns among riders – but have since seen a weak recovery. Potential financial shortfalls of transportation companies and government bodies have contributed to the low total number of job postings for Aerospace Engineers and Urban/Transportation Planners.

Algorithms, automation & AI: down but not out

The Algorithms, Automation and AI (AAA) family, the largest in the index, registered a -13.2% decrease over the quarter. It had declines or no change in job postings in 15 out of 16 occupations. Software Developer/Engineer had the largest over-the-quarter numeric decline (-30,129 job postings), followed by Cyber/Information Security Engineer/Analyst (-4,008 job postings), the proxy job Cyber Calamity Forecaster (-2,997 job postings), Business Intelligence Analyst (-1,853 job postings) and Technology Consultant (-1,072 job postings).

The pandemic has dampened tech hiring for born-digital startups and industry giants, alike. Software engineering job listings at the largest tech companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, have slowed despite gains for the industry. The slump in job postings for Software Developer/Engineer, the largest occupation tracked in the CJoF Index, has driven the index downward. Software Developer/Engineer declined 14.4% quarter-on-quarter, posting over 30,000 fewer jobs than in Q2 2020 and making up approximately 70% of the total drop in the CJoF Index. Because the Software Developer/Engineering job is the largest job tracked in the CJoF Index, its impact is amplified compared with the All Burning Glass Jobs Index, where this job category represents a smaller share of the total jobs tracked.

The reduction in job postings may also be tied to lower employee turnover in the information sector. New federal data reveals that over-the-year job separations and layoffs within the information sector (-39%) are much lower than in the total private industry (-19%). Because of the pandemic, employees feel less confident leaving their positions to seek new opportunities; instead, they are waiting for better economic conditions and a more favorable job market. This lower churn is, in turn, decreasing the number of unfilled positions and overall postings for tech workers.

COVID-19 has also disrupted the digital journeys of brick-and-mortar companies. While the pandemic is accelerating the rise of a digital-first world, it is paradoxically forcing management teams to postpone their long-term digital plans and concentrate instead on propping up their short-term business and profit margins. It is no wonder that some IT workers report that the rising demand for digital support is increasing individual workloads rather than additional personnel.

Over the year, five families posted declines: Work Culture (-25%), Algorithms, Automation and AI (-24%), Customer Experience (-23%), Environmental (-18%) and Transport (-4%).

Which jobs grew the most over the year?

Over the year, 16 occupations generated growth in their individual indices, three of which had annual growth rates over 100%. Given the severity of the health crisis, it is not surprising that three healthcare-related positions, Home Health Aide (+294%), Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+290%), and Genetic Counselor (+106%) registered the greatest annual growth. With record solar installations expected in 2020, despite COVID-19, Solar Installers from the Environmental family posted an annual growth rate of 81%. The rest of the top 10 fastest-growing occupations included two in Healthcare (Registered Nurse and Biostatistician), two in Transport (Transportation Supervisor and Avionics Technician), one in the AAA family (Security/Deference Intelligence Analyst) and one in the Environmental family (Alternative Energy Manager).

The Legal and Financial Services family did not have any jobs on the top 10 fastest-growing jobs list. In the Customer Experience and Work Culture families, no individual jobs experienced annual growth in postings.

The fastest-growing jobs over the year in Q3 2020 in the CJoF Index were:

  • Home Health Aide (+294%)

  • Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+290%)

  • Genetic Counselor (+106%)

  • Solar Installer (+81%)

  • Registered Nurse (+56%)

Jobs that posted the largest declines over the year in Q3 2020 were:

  • Health Information Manager/Director (-56%)

  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist (-44%)

  • Sales Engineer (-42%)

  • Mechatronics Engineer (-42%)

  • Robotics Technician (-40%)

Another key indicator of overall demand for these jobs is the change in numeric postings. On this measure, Registered Nurse showed the largest increase (+1,432), followed by Health Technician/Technologist (+634) and Chief Information Officer/Director of Information Technology (+600). The other top 10 job postings showing the fastest numeric growth include Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+580), Home Health Aide (+491), Attorney (+333), Training and Development Specialist (+252), Transportation Supervisor (+106), Personal Financial Advisor (+82) and Fitness Commitment Counselor (+78).

    We encourage you to review our overall index on a regular basis, as these COVID-19-driven shocks continue to alter the landscape of jobs of the future – and jobs of the now. Visit our Cognizant Jobs of the Future Index page to see the most up-to-date data and analysis.