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The sudden onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic — and the containment measures imposed to combat it — are reshaping the labor market. Jobless claims are spiking to unprecedented levels, numerous businesses are permanently shutting down, and others have been forced to digitally evolve.

Last quarter, the slow growth of the Cognizant Jobs of the Future Index (CJoF) reflected the “distant early warning” effects of the nation’s stay-at-home orders and non-essential business closures. The second quarter’s dramatic decline, however, showcases the entire “blast radius” of a full quarter of a closed economy.

Even amid severe job loss, the crisis has accelerated the use of digital technology, and many practices that became more rule than exception during the pandemic — online commerce and banking, remote working and healthcare, digital learning and entertainment — may stay that way long after the crisis subsides. Beyond the short term, the pandemic may have a more lasting impact on the demand for digitally-enabled jobs of the future.

The severe decline in the job postings of both the CJoF (-149,000) and All Burning Glass Jobs Index (-2.8 million) is a product of many competing and compounding effects of the current economic environment. While the drop in postings is largely due to business closures and contractions, another factor is the uncertainty of the labor market. A widespread lack of confidence has diminished overall employee turnover as individuals stay put instead of seeking new opportunities. This reduces the number of unfilled positions and further constrains the number of overall postings.

COVID’s mind-numbingly catastrophic effects

The CJoF Index tracks demand for 50 digitally-enabled jobs of the future identified by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work and captures the quarterly fluctuations in postings for these jobs. In the second quarter of 2020, the CJoF Index dropped -3.1% year-on-year, from an index figure of 1.50 in Q2 2019 to 1.46 in Q2 2020. The All Burning Glass Jobs Index posted a comparable decline of -3.5% year-on-year, from 1.35 in Q2 2019 to 1.30 in Q2 2020.

As expected, given the ongoing economic shutdown, the CJoF Index posted a significant quarter-on-quarter decline of -28.2%, from 2.02 in Q1 to 1.46 in Q2. The All Burning Glass Jobs Index posted a similar quarter-on-quarter decline of -26.5%, from 1.77 in Q1 to 1.30 in Q2.

In addition to total job openings, the CJoF Index monitors trends in eight job families: Algorithms, Automation and AI; Customer Experience; Environmental; Fitness and Wellness; Healthcare; Legal and Financial Services; Transport; and Work Culture. All saw quarter-on-quarter declines, although three families experienced growth over the year.

Last quarter, with the effects of the pandemic only materializing during the last few weeks of March, most of the families were still showing moderate growth. In the second quarter, all families registered declines, most greater than 30%:

  • Fitness and Wellness (-39%).

  • Legal and Financial Services (-37%).

  • Customer Experience (-36%)

  • Environmental (-35%).

  • Work Culture (-34%).

  • Algorithms, Automation and AI (-28%).

  • Healthcare (-15%).

  • Transport (-15%).

Geography matters: A real-time view into America’s contingent workers

Once again this quarter, (as in our Q1 2020 analysis), we’ve tapped the data and insight of temporary employment from staffing and workforce solutions giant ManpowerGroup to get a sense of what’s happening across geographies in the U.S. In all, the organization has seen more than 7 million open jobs, up 4.5% from May to June 2020. The NYC metro numbered about 140,000 new jobs, while in the “white-hot,” tech-rich Bay Area, new jobs clocked in at about 48,000 for that period. In Kansas City, MO, “the heartland” of America, new jobs numbered just 5,800 in June.

As in Q1, the common denominator in NYC and KC in terms of high-demand jobs is the overall category of “moving things.” Specifically, heavy and tractor-trailer truck driving is the number-one role available in these metro markets. Number two in NYC is registered nurses, while in Kansas City, it’s first-line supervisors of retail sales workers — perhaps a glimmer of hope for a beleaguered retail sector (or, more grimly, preparation for strategic downsizing. Time will tell.) For the San Francisco/Silicon Valley market, “software developers” remain number one, while nurses have shifted to number 10, down from the number four position they’d risen to as the onslaught of COVID-19 began; truckers are number eight.

The shift to remote work is undeniable, with more than 16% of jobs posted specifying no location vs. just one in 10 in January, according to ManpowerGroup. This a growing trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

Though of course the crisis is nowhere near finished, ManpowerGroup is starting to sense employers cautiously taking their finger off the pause button, with jobs being created and consumer confidence on the rise. With different regions of the U.S. in different stages of reopening or reclosing, any recovery will be phased and hyper-local.

Amid the scorched Earth, green shoots survive

The Fitness and Wellness family, while posting a 39% decline compared with Q1 2020, continued to lead all job families in year-on-year growth (+74%), thanks again to an ongoing rise in the job postings for Caregiver/Personal Care Aides (+175%) and Home Health Aides (+113%). This is a continuation of this family’s expansive year-on-year growth in the prior few quarters. However, since Q1 2020, both Home Health Aides (-49%) and Caregiver/Personal Care Aides (-42%) saw dramatic declines in job postings.

Both of these jobs fall into what is being categorized around the country as “essential” work due to their connection to providing care to the elderly or disabled persons. These health and personal care services are becoming essential for older Americans, as they allow them to receive care at home, thereby avoiding travel to a hospital or other facility amid the pandemic. Moreover, as the number of jobs related to fitness and wellness continues to expand, many will require familiarity with the latest digital technology innovations in the field, including remote monitoring and improvements to digital interoperability. This will allow caregivers, fitness trainers and related agencies to obtain and maintain easily accessible information on the different needs of the people using their services, particularly during the crisis.

As for the two other occupations in this family, Family/Behavioral Therapists (+11%) saw continued over-the-year growth, while the proxy job Fitness Commitment Counselor (-16%) experienced its first over-the-year decline since the start of the index.

Similar to the Fitness and Wellness family, jobs in the Healthcare family also saw over-the-year growth (+32%) but over-the-quarter decline (-15%). Over the year, the fastest growing job within the Healthcare family was Physician (+189%) as hospitals around the nation prepared for the upsurge in personnel needed to combat the public health crisis. Health Information Manager/Director also saw over-the-year growth (+71%).

The Transport family posted a similar growth trend, with over-the-year growth (+24%) and over-the-quarter decline (-15%). Within this family, two jobs relating to air and space travel — Aerospace Engineer (+62%) and Avionics Technicians (+30%) — were responsible for the family’s growth. Both ground transportation positions within the family, Urban/Transportation Planner (-30%) and Transportation Supervisor (-18%), recorded year-on-year losses.

All the other families had year-on-year declines in Q2 2020, as follows:

  • Environmental (-24%).

  • Work Culture (-22%).

  • Customer Experience (-18%).

  • Legal and Financial Services (-4%).

  • Algorithms, Automation and AI (-3%).

Jobs growth over the year

Over the year, 21 occupations measured growth in their individual indices. For the third consecutive quarter, the top four occupations saw annual growth rates over 100%. Three healthcare-related positions, Physician (+189%), Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+175%) and Home Health Aide (+113%), had the fastest annual growth — not surprising given the public health emergency and increase in demand for related services. Solar Installers from the Environmental family posted an annual growth rate of 110%. The rest of the top-10 fastest growing occupations included three in the AAA Family (Security/Deference Intelligence Analyst, Video Game Designer and Computer Scientist), along with two in Healthcare (Health Information Manager/Director and Biostatistician) and one in the Transport family (Aerospace Engineer).

The Work Culture and Legal and Financial Services families did not have any job in the top half of the fastest-growing jobs list. The Customer Experience family showed no annual growth in job postings.

The fastest growing jobs over the year were:

  • Physician (+189%).

  • Caregiver/Personal Care Aide (+175%).

  • Home Health Aide (+113).

  • Solar Installer (+110%).

  • Health Information Manager/Director (+71%).

Jobs that posted the largest declines over the year were:

  • Career Counselor (-44%).

  • Robotics Technician (-43%).

  • Mechatronics Engineer (-40%).

  • Genetic Counselor (-40%).

  • Sales Engineer (-37%).

Another important indicator for understanding overall demand for these jobs is the change in the number of job postings. On this measure, Cyber/Information Security Engineer/Analyst showed the largest increase (+3,718). This is related to the vastly accelerated move to remote working, telemedicine, e-commerce and digital entertainment. This shift opened up new cybersecurity risks for many companies as hackers and cyber criminals looked to take advantage of vulnerabilities — prompting businesses to hire cyber and related specialists. The rest of the top-five fastest-growing job postings in terms of numeric growth included a mix of healthcare and AAA positions: Physician (+1,615), Security/Defense Intelligence Analyst (+938), Technology Consultant (846) and Registered Nurse (+822).

Notably, the job of Software Developer/Engineer, accounting for the largest portion of jobs in the index, declined by 9,532 postings over the year. This is in stark contrast to last quarter’s annual increase of 82,796 additional postings compared with Q1 2019.

We encourage you to review our overall index on a regular basis, as these COVID-driven shocks continue to alter the landscape of jobs of the future — and jobs of the now. (Visit the CJoF Index for up to date data an analysis.)