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Job postings are down 7 percent this year. It’s probably going to get way worse.

Growth in health care and warehouse jobs is not enough to counter declines in tourism and entertainment.

Two men walk in front of the New York Stock Exchange on March 24, 2020. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox and has been focusing her reporting on the future of work. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade — often in charts — including at Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

As businesses across the country close — due to government mandates, slow business, or voluntary actions — to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, many Americans are finding themselves out of work. When this is all over, they may find themselves job hunting in a completely different economy. New data about which sectors are hiring or not is already signaling a shift.

Early unemployment claims skyrocketed this month across the country and more will certainly follow. An estimated 37 million jobs could be lost in the short term, according to the US Private Sector Job Quality Index, a project from Cornell University Law School among others. A vast majority of those jobs are low wage and concentrated in sectors like food service, retail, and support and accommodation services.

Of course, we’re still in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, and we will only know the true and full extent of the economic carnage in retrospect. But new data pouring in each day is not making the situation look good.

Job postings on Indeed, the biggest hiring platform by traffic in the US, have already declined 7 percent between January 1 and March 21 of this year and the same period in 2019. You can see from this chart comparing US job postings on Indeed in 2018, 2019, and 2020 how drastic the fall-off in postings was this year:

Indeed’s data doesn’t go back to the last recession to compare.

While job postings alone do not tell the entire story of employment in an economy, they are a good proxy for job prospects and often a decline in job postings precedes more drastic measures like layoffs, which are already being seen in indicators like unemployment claims.

“Posting a job is a forward-looking glimpse of managers’ sense of a business’s prospects,” Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told Recode. “This is a vote of no confidence.”

He added that things will likely get much worse in the US job market.

“This data covers a period in which the distant storm came closer and began to envelop the edge of town,” he said. “A much greater collapse of postings will likely follow.”

Indeed, measures to combat the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have intensified in the days since March 14. California, the country’s most populous state, ordered all 40 million residents to stay home beginning on March 19. Three days later, similar orders went into effect for New York’s population of nearly 20 million. Numerous other cities and states have issued their own shelter-in-place instructions. The result has been empty streets and empty businesses, many of which are undoubtedly pondering layoffs rather than new hires.

In countries like Italy and the UK, where the virus has been spreading for longer, the percent by which job posts have declined is in the high teens. Italy’s job posts have declined by 18.2 percent, Ireland by 17.7 percent, Australia by 15 percent, and the UK by 14.8 percent, according to Indeed, which has about 25 million job postings globally.

The higher number of listings in some other countries, according to Jed Kolko, chief economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, “reflects the progress of the virus, the nature of government fiscal and monetary responses, as well as the nature of lockdown, shelter in place, and other rules that are curtailing or stopping economic activity.” He expects the US could soon be in a similar situation.

In general, the US economy has already taken a substantial blow. Earlier this month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a measure of major company’s stock performance and the health of the economy at large, saw its worst daily drop since 1987. After the longest period of market expansion in history, experts believe the global economy is headed for a recession.

While restaurant closures have devastated the food-service industry as restricted flights and travel advisories have pummeled the airline and travel industries, there are a few bright spots of employment. Health care and loading and stocking jobs in warehouses have grown this year, according to the Indeed data. Amazon, for one, is hiring 100,000 new warehouse workers to meet that demand.

The long-term result could mean a shift in the composition of US jobs as those who can’t work in one field take jobs where they’re available. That likely means a move from tourism and hospitality or arts and entertainment to jobs like loading and stocking or health care, depending on an individual’s skill set.

Considering that job postings overall in the US are down 7 percent, the rise in health care and loading and stocking jobs is not enough to compensate for losses elsewhere.

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