The coronavirus pandemic has brought life in the United States to a near standstill in recent days. Many cities and states are in complete lockdown as strict social distancing looks like the only way to slow down the spread of the virus at the moment. As people are no longer leaving their houses, let alone meeting in restaurants, movie theaters or at the mall, some industries have lost a significant portion of their income virtually overnight, putting millions of American jobs at risk.
According to estimates from Goldman Sachs economists, initial jobless claims may have exceeded 2 million in the week ended March 21, but that may only be the beginning of an unprecedented jobs crisis. According to the Job Quality Index (JQI), a research project from Cornell Law School and the Coalition for a Prosperous America that assesses job quality in the United States, more than 37 million (mostly lower-wage) jobs may be vulnerable to short-term layoffs due to the COVID-19 crisis and the response to it.
Assuming that the coronavirus crisis “does not ultimately result in widespread, long-term, layoffs of goods producing workers (i.e. that the crisis will be of modest duration)”, JQI focused its analysis on “workers in sectors that are effectively being forced to shut down as a result of social-distancing recommendations or shelter-in-place requirements”.
As the following chart shows, the wider restaurant industry, including everything from full-service restaurants to bars, cafeterias etc. is expected to be most vulnerable to short-term job losses with more than 10 million lower-wage positions at risk. Retailers and firms operating in travel, tourism and leisure are also expected to be heavily affected, with 7.7 and 5.1 million jobs at risk, respectively.