Coronavirus guts jobs that may never come back
By SUSANNAH BRYAN | Sun Sentinel | Published: May 22, 2020
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — The coronavirus pandemic has been a brutal game changer for the U.S. job market, forcing companies to shed millions of jobs that might never come back.
The outlook for some jobs, particularly in tourism-dependent markets like South Florida, is bleak.
“There’s 149 metro areas in the South and [South Florida] is the worst performing,” said Kwame Donaldson, senior economist with the rating agency Moody’s Analytics. “South Florida has industries that will be hit the hardest. Tourism, jobs in real estate, retail. A lot of industries that South Florida specializes in are in the bull’s-eye in the measures taken to stop the spread of the virus.”
Lockdowns and social distancing rules have dealt a crushing blow to several industries: hotels, restaurants, casinos, retail, airlines, cruise ships and ride-share companies like Uber.
Restaurants nationwide are expecting to lose up to $240 billion by the end of the year, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Some simply won’t make it to the other side of the pandemic, said Marc Weinstein, a business professor at Florida International University.
“Restaurants with lush capital reserves will survive, but many won’t survive,” he said. “I anticipate some people won’t want to eat out because they have less money and are fearful. There will be less demand. The longer the duration of the pandemic, the higher the number of establishments that will fail.”
Gyms might also be forced to close.
“Restaurants and gyms both have high failure rates in the best of times,” Weinstein said. “Some people might not feel comfortable going to the gym and instead hire a personal trainer. Some gyms are not going to survive.”
Retail workers have also been sidelined. Some of those jobs are never coming back, experts say.
Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney and J.Crew have filed for bankruptcy amid the coronavirus outbreak and are not likely to be the last. Several retailers, including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, have announced they plan to close stores.
“The jobs that will take longest to recover are jobs in tourism, especially in South Florida,” Donaldson said.
Some industries may recover, experts say, but it could take up to 10 years.
Cruise industry jobs won’t be gone forever, but might not rebound until a vaccine is found for the new coronavirus, said Albert Williams, a professor of finance and economics at Nova Southeastern University.
“Those jobs will be hard to come back,” he said. “The cruise business is based on density and density and COVID-19 don’t go well together. The customers are fearful of getting back on these ships.”
The same is true for airlines.
“I see devastation in the airlines,” said Siri Terjesen, a Florida Atlantic University professor who specializes in entrepreneurship. “When you have fewer planes in the air, you need fewer people booking those flights. You won’t have as many pilots or ground crews or maintenance workers.”
The hotel industry has been among the hardest hit, losing 7.7 million jobs or nearly half of its workforce at the start of the pandemic, says the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Nine out of 10 hotels have laid off or furloughed staff due to the historic drop in travel demand.
For the short term, the industry is in a fight for survival against tough odds.
“The human toll is measured in millions of jobs lost, and nearly half of all hotels are functionally closed," said Chip Rogers, CEO of the trade group. "Some people won’t be able to wait for the jobs to come back,” Rogers said. “We will lose some employees forever.”
Jobs left behind
Some jobs lost because of the coronavirus pandemic are never coming back, experts say. Among those most at risk:
- Airlines: Pilots, ground crew, maintenance workers, flight attendants, ticket agents.
- Hotels: Front desk workers, housekeepers, security, middle management.
- Retail stores: Clerks, stockers, cashiers, security.
- Restaurants: Servers, bartenders, hostesses, chefs.
- Cruise ships: Onboard services, sales agents, entertainers, chefs.
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