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The novel coronavirus has thrust the “future of work” to the forefront for the 165 million people in today’s U.S. labor force with shocking speed. Cognizant’s Q1 Jobs of the Future (CJoF) Index provides a glimpse into the profound impact that is beginning to emerge.

The CJoF Index started the year with unemployment at its lowest point in decades (3.8% quarterly average) and the economy and stock market continuing their decade-long expansion. However, in mid-March economic growth came to a sudden stop as local and state governments implemented social distancing policies and closed non-essential businesses to mitigate the impact of the health crisis.

The impact was immediate. This sudden shutdown of most of the U.S. economy caused unemployment claims to skyrocket in the last week of March to around 6.65 million, for a total of 10 million for the month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced its worst drop in March since the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

While the full longer-term implications are still unknown, it is likely that the pandemic will accelerate digital and workforce transformation and increase the demand for digitally enabled jobs in the future.

The COVID effect

The CJoF Index tracks quarterly postings for 50 digitally enabled jobs identified by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. The index monitors trends in eight families of jobs, all of which saw year-on-year growth. These eight families are Algorithms, Automation and AI; Customer Experience; Environment; Fitness and Wellness; Healthcare; Legal and Financial Services; Transport; and Work Culture.

The Q1 index shows quarterly growth slowing from the rate achieved in the previous two quarters. Although the CJoF Index increased 7.1%, from 1.89 in Q4 2019 to 2.02 in Q1 2020, this rise was lower than the 8.1% quarterly rate seen in the two previous quarters, when the index grew faster than the All Burning Glass Jobs Index.

Before COVID-19 hit, the first-quarter CJoF Index was on the rise through January and February compared with previous quarters. In the first quarter, it rose a hefty 37.2%, from 1.47 in Q1 2019 to 2.02 in Q1 2020. The first quarter’s year-on-year growth even exceeded the 31.6% annual increase recorded in Q1 2019. The March year-on-year numbers revealed a pandemic-influenced course correction: the CJoF Index jumped 23.6%, while the All Burning Glass Jobs index increased by 13.7%.

Early warning signs?

Although it is too early to gauge COVID-19’s full impact on the labor market, an analysis of the 45 real jobs in the CJoF Index over the five weeks from March 1 to April 4 reveals a “distant early warning,” of sorts, of the pandemic’s impact on future jobs. Of those 45 jobs, 11 realized an increase in demand from the first week in March to the first week in April, while 31 posted declines. Three jobs remained unchanged.

Unsurprisingly, demand for Caregivers/Personal Care Aides and Computer Scientists increased by the highest percentages, 354% and 337% respectively. That may be the start of a fast-emerging trend, as business and healthcare go digital to cope with the pandemic and its ramifications. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come was the uptick for digitally enabled Family/Behavior Therapists (+26%), Biostatisticians (+20%), Business Intelligence Architect/Developers (+7%), Personal Financial Advisors (+7%), Cyber/Information Security Engineer/Analyst (+7%) and Physicians (+2%).

Most jobs within the index fell in demand during March, as many “non-essential” businesses were forced to streamline or stop operations. The two jobs with the largest percentage decreases over this period were Health Information Manager/Director (-79%) and Career Counselor (-70%). But the future for these and other jobs in the index depends on how fast the U.S. economy recovers and the actions companies take to re-ignite their performance.

Whether the current lockdown lasts weeks or months, little will remain unchanged. Will everyone work from home? Virtually? Will robots and AI be more popular or less so? Will the gig economy be wiped away or the only port in a global storm?

Jobs of the now: What’s happening on the ground

To get a better sense of what’s happened to the U.S. jobs market real-time, look no further than the latest data from staffing and workforce solutions giant ManpowerGroup. The scale of the slowdown is significant, yet opportunities remain. During any given March over the last four years, the NYC metro area averaged 125,000 to 150,000 new jobs. But between April 1 and April 28, that slowed to just under 100,000. What about the white-hot, tech-rich Bay Area? According to ManpowerGroup, a typical March the past few years saw 54,000 to 67,000 new jobs posted – but that slowed against the massive headwinds of the coronavirus to 45,664 for the April period. Perhaps most worryingly, in Kansas City, Missouri, the heartland of America, the four-year March average of 85,000 new jobs plummeted to 14,000 for April 2020.

The common denominator of high demand in these metro markets is “moving things” and “caring for people.” Specifically, heavy equipment and tractor-trailer truck drivers and registered nurses are the Number One and Number Two roles available today in both NYC and Kansas City. For the Silicon Valley market, software developers were Number One, with nurses in the fourth spot and truckers at six. As tech has a very important role to play as a force-multiplier in contact tracking/tracing (and disease prediction and prevention), this is not insignificant.

CJoF Index registers muted QoQ growth

After several quarters of strong overall performance, Q1 2020 – understandably – saw more modest growth for the CJoF Index. It posted a quarterly increase of 7.1%, rising from 1.89 in Q4 2019 to 2.02 in Q1 2020. The All Burning Glass Jobs Index outperformed the CJoF Index (+8%) for the first time in several quarters, increasing from 1.64 in Q4 2019 to 1.77 this quarter. The Proxy Job Index, which examines potential jobs of the future, also showed sustained quarter-on-quarter growth, with an increase of approximately 6%.

Except for the Transport and Legal and Financial Services job families, which posted slight decreases (-5% and -0.7%, respectively), all other families experienced quarter-on-quarter growth.

The fastest-growing job families in Q1 2020 on a year-to-year basis were the following:

  • Fitness and Wellness (+209%)
  • Healthcare (+56%)
  • Transport (+43%)

The families with strong but more moderate growth were:

  • AAA (+37%)
  • Environmental (+31%)
  • Customer Experience (+28%)
  • Legal and Financial Services (+23%)
  • Work Culture (+21%)

Eight jobs families comprise the CJoF Index

In-demand jobs

Over the year, 48 occupations in the CJoF Index posted growth in their individual indexes. The fastest-growing jobs over the year in Q1 of 2020 in the CJoF Index were:

  • Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+418%)
  • Home Health Aide (+348%)
  • Physician (+218%)
  • Alternative Energy Manager (+105%)
  • Biomedical Equipment Technician (+93%)

Jobs that posted the smallest increases over the year in the CJoF Index in Q1 2020 were:

  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist (+7%)
  • Environmental Engineer (+6%)
  • Robotics Engineer (+5%)
  • Personal Financial Advisor (+2%)
  • Fitness Commitment Counselor (+0.7%)

Only two jobs posted negative growth over the year in Q1 2020:

  • Computer Scientist (-5%)
  • Career Counselor (-13%)

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 Jobs of the Future Index page to see the most up-to-date data and analysis.