The economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and recurring lockdowns sweeping the nation have created a grim labor market. The U.S. was beset by the third and most deadly wave of the virus, and healthcare facilities are now racing to administer vaccines. The labor market recovery will depend on the progression of the virus, vaccine deployment, emergency relief spending, and policies implemented by President Joe Biden’s administration.
The Cognizant Jobs of the Future (CJoF) Index tracks demand for 50 digitally enabled jobs of the future identified by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, capturing the quarterly fluctuations in postings for these jobs. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the CJoF Index dropped 5.4% from the previous quarter, from an index figure of 1.29 in Q3 2020 to 1.22 in Q4 2020. The All Burning Glass Jobs Index posted a comparable quarter-on-quarter decline of 5.6%, from 1.54 in Q3 2020 to 1.45 in Q4 2020.
We believe the declines in both indexes is a product of conservative business posturing in response to shutdowns across the nation. As COVID-19 devastated some sectors and benefited others, the professional services, finance and technology industries stayed in a holding pattern. Compared to their non-digital counterparts, these sectors suffered comparatively modest job losses during the onset of the pandemic, effectively transitioning to a virtual environment. However, lacking confidence that the economy would return to growth, these firms remained hesitant to recruit, hire and onboard new employees. As 2020 drew to a close, the CJoF Index experienced a modest quarter-on-quarter decline compared to the prior two quarters — yet remained far below pre-pandemic levels.
For the year, the CJoF Index posted an understandable and significant decline of 35.5%, dropping from 1.89 in Q4 2019 to 1.22 in Q4 2020. The All Burning Glass Jobs Index posted a more moderate year-on-year decline of 11.6%, sinking from 1.64 in Q4 2019 to 1.45 in Q4 2020. Unlike digitally enabled job postings, brick-and-mortar postings experienced extensive churn, with record-breaking job loss in the first half of the year. As companies began to reopen and rehire, the All Burning Glass Jobs Index grew in the third quarter, accounting for its comparatively moderate year-on-year decline.
Environment and Healthcare up, Fitness and Wellness and Transport down
In addition to total job openings, the CJoF Index monitors trends in eight job families: Algorithms, Automation and AI; Customer Experience; Environment; Fitness and Wellness; Healthcare; Legal and Financial Services; Transport; and Work Culture.
In the fourth quarter, five families registered quarter-on-quarter declines, with the largest in Fitness and Wellness (-52.7%) and Transport (-11.1%). Environmental (+11.0%) and Healthcare (+6.6%) emerged as top-performing jobs families.
For the year, seven of eight families posted declines: Fitness and Wellness (-55%), Transport (-43%), Algorithms, Automation, and AI (-37%), Legal and Financial Services (-34%), Work Culture (-34%), Customer Experience (-30%), and Environmental (-14%). Healthcare (+6%) was the only family in the CJoF Index to register year-on-year growth.
The Environmental family posted a quarterly increase in job postings (+11.0%), with sharp growth in Solar Engineer (+81%), Sustainability Specialist (+55%) and Alternative Energy Manager (+48%) job postings. Tidewater Architect was the only job in the Environmental family to see a quarter-on-quarter decline (-10%). With Biden planning to invest $400 billion in clean energy over the next 10 years, the Environmental job family has a rosy future. Despite its strong Q4 performance, this family saw a year-on-year decline (-14%), caused primarily by yearly declines in its two largest categories, Environmental Engineer (-18%) and Tidewater Architect (-32%).
Two other families, Healthcare (+6.6%) and Customer Experience (+4.5%), realized modest gains in postings over the quarter. The fastest-growing digitally enabled jobs in Healthcare were Registered Nurse (+29%), Health Information Manager/Director (+23%) and Biomedical Engineer (+20%). As healthcare facilities bore the burden of COVID-19 case surges and prepared for mass vaccination, hospitals and health systems increased their reliance on registered nurses able to administer remote care. Pandemic support was needed on the administrative side and up the supply chain, too.
The Fitness and Wellness family had the largest quarter-on-quarter decline (-52.7%) after leading growth in the third quarter. Declines in Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (-69%), Home Health Aide (-57%), and Fitness Commitment Counselor (-11%) postings drove the poor performance of the family. Fitness and Wellness has undergone much volatility during the pandemic. Home health workers were in high demand during Q3, but as the virus surged in Q4, people postponed elective and routine medical procedures, diminishing need for in-home care.
The Transport family faced the second-largest quarter-on-quarter decline (-11.1%), led by reductions in job postings for Avionics Technician (-20%), Aerospace Engineer (-18%) and Transportation Supervisor (-15%). Travel restrictions and warnings have created a crisis for the airline industry. Holiday travel provided some relief when pre-Christmas air travel surpassed a million passengers per day nationwide, but this still amounted to less than half of total travelers in 2019. In addition, the demand for Transportation Supervisors, once utilized by school districts to coordinate service, was hurt by the transition to online education.
Quarterly ups and downs
In Q4, the fastest-growing jobs in the CJoF Index were:
- Solar Engineer (+81%).
- Sustainability Specialist (+55%).
- Alternative Energy Manager (+48%).
- Family/Behavioral Therapist (+37%).
- Mechatronics Engineer (+36%).
Jobs that posted the largest declines for the quarter were:
- Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (-69%).
- Home Health Aide (-57%).
- Genetic Counselor (-35%).
- Career Counselor (-31%).
- Video Game Designer (-30%).
Annual ups and downs
The fastest-growing jobs in the CJoF Index for the year ending with Q4 2020 were:
- Solar Installer (+84%).
- Solar Engineer (+68%).
- Alternative Energy Manager (+57%).
- Registered Nurse (+37%).
- Genetic Counselor (+26%).
Jobs that posted the largest declines during this period were:
- Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (-73%).
- Home Health Aide (-53%).
- Aerospace Engineer (-52%).
- Career Counselor (-50%).
- Robotics Engineer (-49%).